Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughts on growing older....

I am sitting in a theater watching an R-rated movie with my 18 year old daughter. As the previews begin to roll, my mind wanders, and at this precise moment it hits me. I am now the parent of an adult child. Surely it was only yesterday that she was my little girl and we were sitting together watching a Disney movie, laughing at animated characters and sharing a bag of popcorn. Now, as I look to the woman on my left, I marvel at her beauty and presence. I see my youth in her features. It is a bittersweet moment for me.

When did I become old enough to have a daughter sitting here with me watching an R-rated movie without thinking about covering her eyes at the questionable parts of the movie? When did I become the woman in the OB-GYN waiting room who is there only for the GYN functions and never again for the OB functions? Where did all the years go?

I loved her childhood and think I did a pretty good job raising her considering I didn’t know how to put a diaper on a baby when she came home from the hospital. Somehow, the natural maternal instinct kicked in and I never looked back. For someone who did not know how to be a mother in the beginning, I quickly took on the ferociousness of a mother lion protecting her cub if anyone even thought of harming my child. Just as those early months were the beginning of our mother and baby relationship, our relationship is now once again transitioning to a new place. Neither of us have been there before but we are learning along the way.

As the movie starts I am still caught in this confused state of how it feels to be the parent of an adult.

When people see us together, they often comment that she looks just like me. At first whenever someone would say this I would wait, expecting my daughter to roll her eyes or give some other type of nonverbal disapproval of this observation. Unbelievably, she never does this. She actually seems quite pleased to have people point out this similarity to me. What an amazing thing! We have managed to make it through the teen years with minimal fighting, and she still loves me. In fact, anyone seeing us at the theater would think that we are best friends. I think this new relationship is taking shape.

The mother lion in me never stops being a mother lion. Each time she heads off to college after a weekend at home, I caution her to “drive safe” and “call when you get there”. After she leaves from her weekend visits, I wander to her empty bedroom and straighten her comforter and feel the sense of loss of her presence in my house. I know that as her future grows, my place in her life will change. Our relationship has already started to change. This is a difficult reality to face.

Recently we were playing a board game in which she needed to come up with a word describing a hero that began with the letter “M” . Her answer was “Mom”. Yes, I’ve definitely done ok with this mothering thing.

The movie ends. I look at my daughter and she looks at me. I feel like I am sitting there with one of my very best friends. She is no longer the little girl with the ponytail and freckles. She is now a dynamic and creative young woman with her own opinions and beliefs. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I am finding that just like I loved her childhood, I am now starting to love her adulthood even if it means that I am growing older.

I smile and think to myself, a couple more years and I might get used to this.

Peggy McNeal

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