Dear Child, Please Don’t Grow Up
Ten years ago, on a breezy summer day, spending the afternoon at the playground, I told my 3-year-old daughter to never grow up.
It wasn’t a request. It was a demand. She nodded with such willingness to comply that her blonde pigtails bounced in agreement. She ran off to the tallest green slide in the park and continued with her important business.
Though she agreed that day, she was no match for time. She still grew up. Now high school is barreling down the path and ready to land on our doorstep and there’s no avoiding it.
I clearly remember the first day of kindergarten. We tentatively dropped off the kiddo to join her classmates while all of the melancholy parents gathered at the Coffee and Kleenex event to mourn our kids’ transition toward independence. We sought comfort in one another as we agreed that our kids were growing up too fast and getting too big.
Then we adjusted, as all of us parents attended curriculum nights, practices and games. As soon as I gained my footing with raising an elementary school kid, the move to Mellon Middle school loomed on the horizon. At the end of fifth grade, I threw out a second plea to my child, “please stop growing up.” This time she lacked the toddler’s enthusiasm and merely rolled her eyes and mumbled, “OK mom! Whatever you say.”
I accepted that my daughter wanted to branch out and distance herself. We stopped spending every waking moment together playing Candy Land while watching a Disney princess movie. Instead, her dad and I began fitting into the roles of chauffeur or being the annoying fly on the wall that you can’t seem to swat out of the room.
Rather than being a punishment any longer, my child sought out solace in her bedroom. I was still ok with that since every once in a while, when the stars perfectly aligned and the full moon perched above our home, she wanted to snuggle and watch a movie.
But, last month, an email came, forcing me to prepare for yet another change. The subject simply stated, “High School Curriculum Night.” To me, it read as, “Here we go again. Your kid is still growing up.” Reality set in after I perused the email and it’s time for me to emotionally prepare for this next step into my daughter’s adulthood.
Though I’m grappling with mixed emotions that every parent likely faces at this point, my daughter started counting down the minutes until she can walk the halls of Mt. Lebanon High School.
The first step in the journey consists of class selection. Without hesitation, she immediately informed us that she’ll be signing up for all honors classes.
Her dad and I started to try and advise her so she’d make an informed decision and be prepared for the class load. But we raised a self-assured and determined child so there was no discussion beyond us asking if she was prepared for the demand. She didn’t blink at us or flinch during that conversation. Her decision was made.
Now we’re stuck in the hurry up and wait phase of this journey.
My daughter turns 14 in June. It’ll be one more step toward the demands of adulting. I know that high school will bring laughter, tears, strife, stress and success as passengers on my child’s journey.
The next four years of school will blur by with such abandon that I’ll look back and barely be able to make out the details of any given moment.
For my daughter’s entire life, I have always told her that my goal was to raise a productive, functional and happy member of society.
We had bumps up to this point and I know we’ll encounter boulders in the coming years. With her, my husband and myself committed to this journey, I have no doubt that we’ll get through the ride relatively unscathed (maybe with just a few lingering bruises and fading scars).
Then college will trump any transition we endured up to this point. I know conversations about college will crop up quickly. We’ll be playing Whac-A-Mole with each passing topic.
But we’ll do it like we’ve done for the past many years: With fear and faith that my daughter will continue down a path to a successful future.