Dance Photo: Bob Stuart Photography
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Partial Lyrics – Daughters – John Mayer
Who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when they look at their baby girl and see the incredible young lady you knew they would be. We look in the mirror at ourselves and often think Oh my; what happened? But our daughters—well, that’s different. Sometimes we have these moments that just seem to freeze time. As we do, we observe with amazement and are shell shocked because this realization hits us so hard; where did all the time go?
I’ll tell you where it went. You bring the little apple of your eye home and your days get consumed with nursing, stimulating, putting down, comforting, and watching every first in amazement: First smile, first tooth, first step, first words. You have more fun dressing your baby girl than you ever did playing dolls. I was born to do this, you think. My happiness is complete now.
You don’t realize it; it’s gradual, but you leave the cocoon of infancy quicker than you thought. Now your packing diaper bags with goldfish crackers snapped in plastic, a few wedges of apple for good measure, sealing sippy cups, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and Barney tapes (my baby missed the IPOD and even CD generation). You’re meeting the other moms you’re friends with for play dates at the park, or Gymboree class, gymnastics lessons, or trips to the library or museums. You’re in full blown motherhood! You’re concerned about every morsel they ingest, every habit they have and every milestone they either exceeded or lag behind. You put character band aids on every boo boo and you kiss the tears until they vanish.
All former identification with career status only has now taken a back seat, most likely, to motherhood, regardless of hours worked outside the home. Sometimes you may go to work because you desperately need a break, or perhaps you have to work, but it kills you. Either way, you’re desperate to hurry home, afraid of what you might be missing. The ache of not being with her catches you off guard. You always thought you could do both easily. You learn having it all, is not just an illusion, it’s clearly obvious that you don’t even harbor that desire now. Less becomes more.
As you learn to make peace with work and motherhood, time ticks on. Soon you’re packing back packs, lunch boxes, and learning how to French braid hair, and sanitize freshly pierced ears. Baby girl plays with you; she plays with her dolls or Build-A-Bears, or with friends. You don’t even feel it, this sudden pull as she becomes the pretend role of mommy, Queen, finger painter Picasso, clown, gymnast, dancer, singer, artist, pot-holder weaver, tye-dyer extraordinaire, and a million other choices. Yes, she’s leaving you, alright.
You referee sibling fights and arguments amongst friends and you too, change hats more frequently than you once changed diapers. One minute you’re craft mom, the next minute you’re nurse, the next you’re mentor mom, homework mom, PTA mom, and chauffeur mom. Yes, before elementary school is finished, you will start logging miles that would make a truck driver say, “Whoa momma….slow down.” But you keep going, because you know dance lessons, help with homework, music lessons, summer camps, play dates, museum trips, are all what will make your daughter super amazing someday. Or at least you delude yourself, if you can just keep on striving towards that ultimate Queen’s Crown of PERFECT MOM, all will be well!
Time doesn’t pardon you or slow down, just because you can’t seem to get it all done in a day. More than half her childhood has passed already. Middle school is a complete revolving door of hormones, physical changes, and a mental maturity that arrives without warning. Stringy uncombed hair is suddenly combed. Make up is applied. Bras go on first. “That time” arrives and leave you both a little sad. Even little girl is more a memory now. Hints of a woman are lurking in your subconscious, but you chase it away.
High school arrives. Day after endless day of activities ensue. First car, first date, first job, first prom, first boyfriend all take place. The cycle of firsts repeats. My daughter is a dancer. EVERY night of her entire high school life was spent at a studio. Dinner with family was rare, but the dashboard dining table was common. Rebelling or excelling is common during these years. You learn to deal with the stress of either, or both sometimes. Your daughter’s friends sometimes become your friends, or sometimes become the thorn in your side. But deep down you love all of them; especially the thorny ones.
Since you often feel like you are feeding and mothering a clan, you admit that maybe Hillary knew a thing or two when she said, “it takes a Village to raise a child”. You are Village Mama trying your level best to supervise, teach, befriend, and intervene when necessary. Your former status as CEO on the domestic frontier has been diminished to that of an adviser. Unlike your day job, you were not informed of your demotion.
Suddenly you went from turning baby girl on her back in the crib, to this moment where you’re watching young lady turn her tassel. In our case, we wrapped childhood up with several amazing final senior recitals, a graduation party, and tied a pretty bow on her life with a big trip to NYC, a final nod to the amazing world of competitive dance.
Then–.BOOM! It happens. This is the day she leaves you! Bags are packed, room is cleaned out, pictures are taken, hugs are exchanged, and you go back home with one less. You tell yourself not to cry. But of course, you do. You’re happy for her. But you’re sad for you. You knew that day they placed her in your arms this day would come; you just tried to pretend it wouldn’t.
We say goodbye and let this beautiful woman God crafted all those years ago inside of you into the big wide world.
You nurtured her, taught her, laughed with her, traveled with her, joked with her, ate with her, made things with her, drew with her and sometime when she wasn’t looking tried to just draw her. Above all, you just loved her. You loved her so much and so hard, you realized when she left, you weren’t sure what was left inside of you.
If she’s your first, you know the first time in every big step is the hardest and you take comfort in the children who still keep you busy. If she’s you’re last, or your only one, you feel pain the most acutely, because now time demands of you to answer the question who am I now and what in the world am I going to do.
But like her, you will find the answers to these questions in time. Take time to listen to your heart; what is stirring in your soul just for you? And just like baby girl, you will step out bravely into the new world and find the answer. Trust God. Reach out. Go forward. And find your life in a new way.
When I saw her first in a pram they pushed her by
Oh my, my how you’ve grown
Well it’s been, it’s been…a little while
In a Little While…U2