I just dropped off my oldest child, Molly, for her first day of work at her new job, a local fast-food restaurant. Watching her walk in the door, after praying together in the car, my heart felt a tug. Pictures flooded my mind of an adorable toddler with light brown, wispy curls, holding a piece of paper and a crayon as she seriously took my “order”. Seconds later, she would reappear, bearing a plastic tray with plastic food, which she usually managed to drop once or twice on her way to the Little Tikes table where I was sitting with my knees nearly touching my chin. As I pretended to taste her food and proclaim it the best I’d ever had, she would put her hands on her hips and suggest, “You want some more, don’t you, Mommy?” As I watched her disappear inside the restaurant and prepared to return home, my heart wanted to cry “Wasn’t that just yesterday?”
It seems that lately, there are too many “firsts”, which are starting to feel way too much like “lasts”. My daughter is growing up right before my eyes. Seemingly overnight, she has turned into a young woman, with insights and wisdom that sometimes catch me by surprise. Our conversations have turned from childish things to topics such as colleges, spiritual questions, and planning for her future. She has become my favorite shopping buddy, my right arm, and even, at times, a shoulder to lean on. The little girl who used to pepper me with endless questions about how things worked or speculations about imaginary princesses now invites me in for late night “girl talk”. The sweet child who used to play dress up with my fancy bridesmaid dresses and satin shoes now races in to say “Mom, can I borrow that white sweater?” The tiny ballerina who used to dance from room to room in her favorite “twirly” skirts now makes me weep with the sheer beauty and elegance of her grace as she dances en Pointe.
While I am overwhelmed with pride as I watch her fulfilling her dreams and reaching for her future, my mother’s heart also aches as I release yet one more of the heart strings attaching her to me and watch her spread her wings just a little bit more. What a bittersweet thing it is to see your daughter grow up, to be thrilled with who she is becoming even as you miss what she used to be. While I love the relationship we have grown as she has matured, sometimes I miss that tiny girl who climbed in my lap, begging for one more story, one more song. My mother’s heart will always see those chubby cheeks, those sparkling brown eyes, that charming girl who flitted around the living room, pretending to be Cinderella at the ball or Snow White running through the forest, even when she is all grown up.
We have many more “firsts” ahead in the next few years—first driving lesson, first date, first car, first love. Each year brings new opportunities, new challenges and new experiences. As she continues to grow into a beautiful young woman of God, my prayer is that I will be able to rejoice in the “firsts” without grieving too much over the “lasts”.
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