My oldest daughter, little miss 9, went to her first camp for a week. She was a little bit nervous and very excited. I am happy and proud of her, but a little part of me is sad. My baby girl is growing into a little lady and with each passing month her wings are extending further and further, preparing her for the day when she will just fully fly towards life. There is pride in seeing my daughter grow, but there is also sadness, for these years, when she is still a child are flying by too fast.
I guess that from now on I will end standing by, watching her travel on her own road more and more, waving to her and praying for her safety, knowing that I will always await her return... And there will always be those questions that only the passing of years can answer. Have I done a god enough job teaching her the necessary skills to navigate the twisted roads of life? Have I taught her all that she needs to know in order to grow into a decent, kind, loving, independent, strong adult? Did I teach her how to be happy and how to stay safe? Only time will answer.
But waiving at her, watching her take these steps towards independence and self awareness, watching her grow more and more into her own person, apart from me, fills me with pride, and in the same time with sadness and fear. Fear for her safety, fear of not having taught her the skills she needs, and sadness because I am losing my baby for this little beautiful miniature lady that fills my heart with pride.
In a way, it was easier when they were just tiny little babies that only needed love and care and cleaning. Yes, the sleepless nights were torture, teething a feverish nightmare, and at the time I thought that things could not get much harder. But looking back, it was simple and easy. Or at least, easier then the many questions that plague me as they grow. How much freedom to give them and in what conditions? How much information is the right amount? How to teach them to be independent while making sure they stay safe? When to say yes and when to say no? As they grow more and more into miniature adults, there are so many shades and so many nuances, so many twisting paths that need to be navigated by them, but also by you, as a parent. And it is scary.
It gets harder and harder to stand by and watch them growing and making mistakes, knowing they will inevitably get hurt and there is only so little you, as the parent can do. Yes, you can be there with advice, if and when it is required, with love even when it is not wanted and a shoulder for when it is needed, knowing that you can never fully shelter them, that you can't fix everything for them. And knowing that some things they need to learn for themselves, that they need to make mistakes in order to grow, it only makes it more confusing. If you as a parent shelter them too much and lift every weight of their tiny shoulders, they will never grow into the independent, responsible adults they need to grow into for their own wellbeing. But on the other hand, it makes your heart bleed to see they crying because a friend hurt them, or because they ran too fast and their knees are bleeding. Yes, you know that they absolutely need to learn to deal with the friend that hurt them, you know that you will not be able to be there to shout warnings, but it still makes your heart bleed. And when they start walking on their own road, flying in their own skies, your heart is squeezed tight by pried and by fear.
My mother told me once, when I was crying to her after three nights with no sleep when my daughter was couple of months old, that small children mean small problems and big children mean big problems. I did not understand it then, and part of me thought that it can not get any worse. But now, when the sleepless nights because of a baby's cry are a memory, there are other things, other worries that keep me up at night, the problems are more complex, the roles more blurry, and with every year passing it gets harder to figure out what is the right thing for them, the children that are growing. Oh, there is an amazing beauty in it, in seeing them extending their wings, but the needs are different and less clearly marked, and as a parent you can not wonder if you manage to have the wisdom necessary, the forward thinking and the ability to really see how every little thing might develop into something else. And there is so much pride for them when under your eyes they learn how to navigate pot holes and they start being little wise people! Your heart melts and squeezes, grows and beats faster, with a love that keeps growing as they grow themselves.
As my daughter grows towards her teenage years, and later towards an adult, I find myself second guessing my every move more and more, even as I am more and more proud of her. And it also makes me look at my own parents with a new understanding of the fears they must have had, of the journey they took to bring us up into the grown ups that we are, and it makes me respect more the sacrifices they made, day after day, so quietly that I never really saw it until I had become a parent myself.