My 14-year-old texted me from her break at work, telling me she felt impending doom. You don’t know my daughter, so it might be easy for you to write off her words as typical teenage drama. But I know her, and I knew this was a lead into something bigger, something weighing on her heart. I returned her text asking why, and her response . . .
Because my childhood is ending.
My daughter graduated from middle school just months ago. We went to her 8th-grade promotion. Her dad went with her on her class trip to the amusement park that culminates each class’s time at the elementary/middle school building.
I didn’t think much about it. I didn’t get misty-eyed watching her walk out the door on the last day of school. There were no tears watching her get her promotion certificate. I considered the get-together with family celebrating her graduation as a practice run for the real thing coming in four years.
But then, the first weeks of her summer passed. She filled out job applications, interviewed, and landed a job for the summer and the upcoming school year. She marked days she needed off for a family trip. She filled out a W-4 form and opened a checking account. She went back to the elementary/middle school building—as a visitor, not a student—to help teachers clean up their rooms for the year. She went to a BBQ planned and hosted by classmates, not parents. I dropped her off for an appointment and returned home to her siblings while she had her teeth cleaned, alone. When I picked her up, she greeted me with, “Can I drive?”
All these things have been swirling around in my mind, hitting my heart far harder than her graduation ceremony did. Because it’s beginning to sink in . . .
The slow goodbye has begun.
I know God gives us our children to raise and release. (Many days of parenting have me longing for the release of endless responsibility and chaos.) And we tend to think the goodbye happens when they leave the nest. With the high school diploma in hand, their old room occupied by different things, their daily schedules no longer written on our calendars.
But I think it starts now. I think this transition from middle to high school is the beginning of the slow goodbye.
The reality is she won’t be around as much—her days will be filled with school, her afternoons with activities, and her evenings with work.
Her learner’s permit will soon turn into a driver’s license and with it, more freedom and independence.
She’ll choose social activities over a quiet night at home. Friends will know more about her day than I do.
She’s already showing more maturity and responsibility. I know she’ll make mistakes, but with each will come a lesson and another nudge closer to adulthood.
She’s still mine for now, but I know it’s changing.
Some nights, she’ll ask me to come down to her room to talk. And many times, I don’t want to go. The little kids need to be put to bed, I have laundry to fold, or I simply want to sit on the couch and read my book. But I know. I know that soon, she’ll be texting me from her dorm room, and it won’t be a quick trip down the stairs to sit on her bed next to her. I know I won’t always be the one who gets to hear the details of her day. I know things are changing. And because I know, I go.
I sit next to her as she shares the highs and lows of her day. I listen as she shares the struggles of growing up. I comfort her and reassure her that these days won’t last forever. And I know all too well that they won’t.
When I say goodnight and walk out her door and up the stairs, I know she’s right—her childhood is ending. And I’m saying farewell to it one night at a time.
I miss her already, as we begin this slow goodbye, but I’m grateful for these moments that linger.