When my girls were little, people at the library or church or in the grocery store would smile at them and tell me, “They’re adorable . . . but just wait until they get to be teenagers.”

I didn’t know what, exactly, it was that I was waiting for.

I supposed it was all the things people talk about when the subject of raising teenagers—especially that particular breed of progeny known as the “teenage daughter”—comes up.

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they wouldn’t need me anymore. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would need me more in deeper, heart-level ways.

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they wouldn’t like me. I didn’t know I was waiting for when we would be not only mother and daughters, but friends.

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would want to do movies and shopping and lunch and, sometimes, just nothing with me.

I thought maybe I was waiting for when my opinion wouldn’t matter to them. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would send a text—”What do you think of this?”—attached to a picture of a dress they were considering buying.

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they would be self-absorbed and oblivious to the interests of others. I didn’t know I was waiting for when we would be at a family gathering and I would be busy in the kitchen and they would say, “Mom, I made you a plate of food. I got you some of that dip you like because it’s almost gone.”

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they would walk away from the foundation of faith their dad and I tried to lay for them. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would choose faith for themselves and make it their own.

RELATED: Dear Kids, As You Grow Older

I thought maybe I was waiting for when I wouldn’t be able to get them to tell me anything about their lives. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would say to me, “Something amazing happened today, and my first thought was, ‘I can’t wait to tell mom about this!’”

I thought maybe I was waiting for when I would cringe at their clothing choices. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would tell me, “Mom, you look so cute! Can I borrow that shirt next week?”

I thought maybe I was waiting for when all the things I used to do for them when they were little no longer meant anything to them. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would text me during the day and ask, “Is there any way you can have some chocolate chip cookies ready for me when I get home?”

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they wouldn’t talk to me.

I didn’t know I was waiting for when they’d ask, “Can I talk to you about something?” and, afterward, would tell me, “I’m so thankful I have a mom who always makes me feel better.”

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they would only think of themselves. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would text me a picture of a dress they’d just found in a resale shop, along with the question, “Do you like this for yourself?”

I thought maybe I was waiting for when they’d tell me not to worry about them anymore. I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would sometimes worry about me, too.

RELATED: When it’s Time To Let You Go

My college freshman came home from school a couple of weekends ago, and every once in a while, I’d forget she was there. I’d pass by a room and see her in it, and it was like finding a gift under the tree on Christmas morning that you forgot you’d asked for.

When my daughters were little, I thought maybe I was waiting for when they would leave.

I didn’t know I was waiting for when they would come back.

My sweet girl hung around that weekend as long as possible. A few minutes before she left, she came up to me in the kitchen and said, “I love you. Thanks for letting me stay.”

It was so worth waiting for.

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Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.

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