I’m sneaking into my teenaged daughter’s room to watch her sleep, like I did when she was a baby. This time, her frame languishes over the side of the bed, her hair is splayed over her pillow and her mouth is wide open. Her dreams are different now. No longer is she dreaming about nestling with her mom. Instead, she’s popping field hockey balls into a goal, or doing illegal things with her friends.
I stare at her slumbering body and say a prayer for her. Let's face it. The prayer is really for me, hoping to erase my worry and fear.
She leaves for her first year of college in a few days and, even though I’ve been through this before (daughter #1), it’s not easier. I've been saying it’s easier, bragging to my friends, “She’s ready. I haven’t even cried once.”
But here I am staring at her while she sleeps, wishing I could just crawl into that bed and snuggle her into my arms the way I did when she was a helpless infant. These past few days, we’ve been shopping and buying what she needs for her dorm room. The special bedding, some decorations, lots of fans. We’re amassing stuff, but it’s not feeling like enough. Should I have enrolled her in self-defense classes? Did I teach her how to sew in case she rips her pants in the middle of the day? Can she work those laundry machines at school? I’m not even sure she knows how to light a match! Do kids even use matches these days? Have I been clear about not drinking anything unless she’s seen the bottle opened in front of her? Have I told her not to walk alone at night?
Have I prepared this helpless infant for the bigger world?
No matter how physically big my girls get, they’re always my babies. Their lives evolve into adulthood, but I still see their toothless grins and wispy hair in pony tails. I see them swinging from monkey bars, and flying on their bikes down Craigmoor Road for the first time. I see them running home from the bus stop, and skating in our backyard. I see them clamoring for my lap when we sit on the couch to watch a movie.
I linger in the room a bit longer. I resist the urge to climb into that bed and lay next to her. She doesn’t need me in that way anymore. She needs me to nudge her from the nest and encourage her to fly. She needs me to believe in her adulthood. She needs me to stop staring at her while she sleeps!
Turning towards the door, I trip on the mound of shit we bought at Target the other day, the purchases being my lame attempt to “prepare” her for her first flight out of the nest. She stirs and mutters, “Mom, you ok?”
I whisper, “Yeah, sure, honey. Sorry. Go back to sleep.”
I want to scream, “No, actually, I’m not OK. I’m staring at you while you’re sleeping!”
As I dodge the giant foam topper perched on the floor, and leave the room, I smile and realize…she’s ready.
She’s been ready.
Now it’s my turn.