When my daughter was about eight, my husband said to me, “I don’t remember the last time she rode on my shoulders.” She was too big now. “I didn’t realize the last time I carried her would be the LAST time.” There are a lot of things like that. A lot of “last times” that sneak up on you.
The last time we brushed her teeth for her or helped her take a bath. Monitoring her closely, making sure she didn’t A) drown and B) Neglect to wash the back of her neck.
The last time we held hands crossing the street or kept one eye on her in a large crowd.
The last time we rushed to school to bring a forgotten lunch or homework.
The last time we helped her zip her coat, tug on mittens or pull a hat down over her ears.
The last time we had to struggle with a baby gate. Or worried about her falling down stairs.
The last time I played dolls with her. Let her paint my fingernails, or put make-up on me.
So many last times. And when you are doing something for the last time, trust me, you don’t know it is the last time. You release those emotions, and slowly they are replaced by others.
Worry. Worry that she is home late or out with friends you are not sure about, you didn’t call their mother, because you don’t do that when they are seventeen.
Cars. You worry about cars. Especially about cars, when she is driving with a new license, or with a boy – showing off and driving fast, or with her friends, loud music and distractions….or even when she is thirty and commutes in a large city with your grandchildren in the back seat. You worry about cars. Truth is, you will never stop worrying about cars.
And you worry when they go away to college, you worry about loneliness, you worry about predators, you worry because she always comes home sick and exhausted.
Hurricanes now worry you, she is on the coast, in the path of these deadly storms. Her work is meaningful, important and stressful. You worry about the stress.
You worry every single minute she is in Eastern Asia, traveling with friends for three months. Twelve weeks.
And while the worry is stressful. It is normal, and unlike those childhood moments that slip away and are gone, those shoulder-riding, teeth-brushing, hand-holding moments, it means your children are out “there”, out in the big world, out there doing exciting things, and worry goes hand-in-hand with the pride you feel, the hope and joy for her, your little girl.