It was such a small moment. I felt silly for getting emotional. But lately, moments like these are beginning to melt together. Where they used to be sporadic and random, I’m noticing they are becoming much more frequent.

These are the moments when I realize my teen is well on her way to adulthood. She’s getting ready to be independent, make her own decisions, and go out into this big world on her own. Not as a toddler holding my hand. Not as a preteen needing my permission. But as a grown adult. Making decisions and plans that won’t require my advice or assistance. You might be wondering what brought about this emotional, albeit dramatic, conclusion?

Well, she scraped her windshield today.

The morning started off bright and early. High school juniors taking the PSAT were supposed to arrive at school by 7:15 a.m. Her morning routine takes about as much time as preparing for a space shuttle launch, so that meant she had to get herself up extra early.

Small step.

I woke and realized that I would find one of two scenarios. Either she responsibly set her alarm and got up on her own, or she turned off her alarm and went back to sleep. She would either be ready to go, or I would have to hurriedly rush her along to get out the door on time.

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When I tentatively opened my bedroom door, I saw the light from the bathroom spilling across the carpet. She stood at the mirror, dressed and ready.

I hugged her, briefly resting my head on her shoulder. She’s a good several inches taller than me now. Images of lifting her from her crib flashed through my mind. Those flashbacks come frequently these days. I still picture that baby, first thing every morning, instantly putting her thumb in her mouth and resting her head on my shoulder.

I tossed up a prayer of thankfulness that she still lets me hug her in the morning.

We made our way downstairs and I watched her from the kitchen table as I sipped my coffee. She made her breakfast, reviewed the testing checklist to be sure she had all her supplies, and packed her lunch.

Small step.

Long gone are the mornings when I rummaged around the kitchen packing her lunch, adding a note of encouragement and a smiley face. I no longer have to tie the laces on her Twinkle Toes shoes, help her zip her coat, or wash her pink Disney princess water bottle.

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I watched as she put her backpack on, grabbed her keys, and headed out the door. One more hug and a wish for good luck, and I closed the door behind her.

I stood in my pajamas, peeking through the blinds in the front window. She put her things in the backseat, and I noticed she grabbed the window scraper. Her windshield was iced over, remnants of an early morning frost.

Somehow, it seemed like such a grown-up thing to do. Scraping the frost off her windshield like any adult would do in the same situation.  

Small step.

It was so small. So ordinary. So mundane. But that’s how this whole thing goes.

They don’t wake up one day, bound out of bed, and declare, “I’m grown up now!”

No, it’s much more sneaky than that.

It happens in the most uneventful moments. Filling her own car with gas. Using her own debit card for makeup and smoothies. Scraping her own windows. Those little steps are laying a path to independence.

She walks this path tentatively, and it takes everything in me to let her work things out on her own. I sometimes have to force myself to simply stand behind and watch. But not too far behind.

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Because sometimes she still needs to be reminded that it’s important to check her email every day.

But other times, she takes my breath away as I watch her navigate life while trying adult-sized shoes on for size.

They’re still a bit big, but soon they’ll fit like a glove. And she’ll walk away, ready to take on the world.

Mamas, the day will come when we won’t peek out the window as they scrape their windshield after the first frost of the season. But we’ll know they are capable of doing it. More than capable.

Because we were there. Through God’s grace, we were able to watch them take the small steps. 

Nicole Pilgrim

Nicole has been married to her prom date for 21 years, and together they are raising two teenage daughters. A full-time writer, her desire is to approach life’s peaks and valleys with a big serving of grace, an abundance of faith, and a splash of humor. She enjoys hiking and skiing with her family, movie nights at home that include takeout and pajamas, and a great cup of coffee first thing in the morning. You can find her on Instagram: @nicolepilgrimwrites and on her website at www.nicolepilgrim.com.