You know that feeling when someone says to you, “gosh she’s really grown since the last time I’ve seen her,” and you look at your daughter in amazement because she actually does look a bit older. It’s hard to notice these details because we are so focused on our daily routines that we never really stop and look at how much our children are in fact growing right in front of our very eyes.
I see it everyday with Harlan. Each day she walks downstairs, and while I may not see it physically, it’s there in the way that she presents herself. Each day she’s just a little bit more mature than she was the day before.
The other morning I walked into our youth room at church where there was a room full of kids scattered around waiting for Sunday School to start. Harlan was in the crowd of children running around and having fun with her friends. I stood in the back of the room and observed while I waited for everything to begin. Each Sunday I usually take my group of middle school kids to another room to teach them, so I never really get to see what Harlan does while she’s there. I try to give her her space, as I know she needs time to do her own thing without me looking on. But that day we were doing things as an entire group. I sat quietly in the back of the room near the kids that I teach while Har sat in the front of the room. She looked back at me before the lesson started and smiled. I smiled back and fully expected her to turn back around to hang out with her friends. But she didn’t. She got up and saw the empty seat next to me to sit down. She put her head on my shoulder and held my hand throughout the rest of the class.
This gesture wasn’t unlike Harlan. In fact, all three of my kids are very affectionate. They’ve always been that way. But what struck me was that Harlan did all of this in front of her friends. I took priority over them in that moment. She didn’t care what they thought. It probably didn’t phase her that they might have even thought anything of it.
But it did for me.
Watching her grow up is like a ticking time bomb. With each day that passes, I know that it’s one day closer to when she won’t want to hold my hand when she’s in front of her friends. It’s one day closer to when she won’t come up and give me a big hug and kiss in front of her friends. When she was a baby and toddler, all I would do was get excited about her firsts and here I am wondering if these will be the lasts.
I dread the day when she’d rather hang out with her friends than hang out with me. When our road-trips down to Florida no longer excite her, but rather annoy her because she’s stuck in a car with me for that long. I know the days are coming because, let’s be honest, I went through same thing growing up. We all do. And that’s why I can’t fault her for when the time does come.
She’s my first, my guinea pig. We’re navigating this road blindly with one another. I don’t know to expect as she gets older. At least I can use her as some sort of guideline for her brother and sister. With Har, I have none. Perhaps that’s why I’m so nervous about what’s to come. Scared for her to get older. I can only use my childhood as a reference. And while I know it’s not exact, I do know as they get older, they also become more independent.
While I do try to control much in my life, I know I don’t have control over the fact that she’s growing up and maturing. But what I can control is these moments that I have with her right now. I can control that when she comes up to me when I pick her up from school and gives me a hug that I fully embrace her back. I can make sure that when she’s holding my hand down the sidewalk that I’m fully engaged with her rather than what’s on my iPhone. I can control those moments when she wants to talk with me that I sit down and listen rather than telling her to wait a minute.
And when that day does come that she doesn’t want to hold my hand anymore, I’ll let go. With tears in my eyes, I’ll let go and watch her be who I taught her to be. And deep down I’ll know that one day she’ll come back and ask for my hand again. Just as I did with my mom.