She turned and walked out of the room. We had just kissed. Eleven times.
I refrained from getting up to watch her walk down the stairs, but I could hear her little footsteps as her red, glittery sandals met the hardwood floors on the staircase. Except, her footsteps aren’t so little anymore. My girl is off to her first ever sleepover and I am so happy for her, but somewhere deep inside I am also feeling wistful, and I am trying to find my wings. Wings are made of feathers, after all.
Growing up, my parents told me about “roots and wings”. It was a Fox family philosophy of sorts. Except, we weren’t great at implementing that fantastic theoretical concept. We had the roots part down. We are a tight family, anchored with roots that are so deep in the soil (and subsoil and bedrock) that they would be impossible to unearth. But I have never had the best set of wings. In fact, until a week ago I lived .3 miles from my parents. We are enmeshed in a way that is both wonderful and hard. And now, amazingly, it is my turn.
I am the parent. My children are growing. And I don’t feel ready.
This week was one of so many firsts for my big (little) girl: she went to real day camp for the first time; she took her first bus ride, and has bussed to and from camp every day; she went off to a place that was new, a little far away and not where she grew in my womb (like the preschool from where she just graduated Kindergarten last month); and tonight, she is sleeping out for the very first time.
I celebrate these milestones. I am so proud of her. She is coming home from camp each day with wavy hair that smells of chlorine and a deepening tan and a new sense of the vastness of this world (albeit from a suburban day camp). One day this week she came home with a tennis ball, as she was one of the “special” campers who got hit the ball over the net. This morning she taught me a new hand clapping game that she learned from her new friends on the bus (don’t say five!). She is so grown up. She is so grown up. I can’t say it enough. I can’t stop thinking about it. And I miss her, tonight, already.
I miss getting to walk into the room next to where I sit typing to hug her. I miss being able to inhale her smell. And she has only been gone for five minutes.
This growing up thing? This is hard.
For a very long time, my daughter and I were everything to one another. I was home with her, breastfed her for 18 months and our bond was enchanting and profound. Roots. Deep, deep roots.
I love seeing the world expand through her eyes. I want for her all of the things that I did not have. I want for her to feel confident and independent. I want her to need me, but to not be needy. I want for her to have the wings that I am still working on growing.
So this evening, as she prepared to leave for her little friend’s house, I bit my tongue and did not say, “You know you can always call if you need me!” or “It’s just one night, you don’t have to worry about missing us!”
I did not want to plant those seeds. I’ve already planted the important seeds—the seeds that have grown our tree.
Unlike many of my posts, this one does not have a resolution. Not yet, at least. I do not yet know how the night will go. I do not know if she will need to call me for a goodnight kiss over the phone. I do not know if she will hear the thunder clapping at the same time that I do, and I do not know if it will scare her. I do not know if the time will fly or if it will feel like an eternity until I pick her up tomorrow morning.
But here is what I do know:
She is in good hands. She is staying in the home of a trusted friend.
I also know that she will be spending more hours today away from me than she has spent with me.
And I know that just as we have grown our tree, we are, together, growing our wings. Mine may have been clipped, but I am working on gathering my feathers—all of my strength—to set a good example for my children and to show them that no matter how far apart we may be, we are always together.
Before she left I got eleven kisses.
“Do you need more, mommy?” she asked me. She is so empathic.
Yes, I did need more, but I told her to run along and to start having fun.
That was my way of handing her a feather for her wings.
We hand them to each other.
So, my dear girl, I hope that you are having the best time already. I hope that you are excited to see that your friend has gotten you matching nightgowns to wear tonight (surprise!). And I hope you know that your tree is here, waiting for you, and will give you eleven kisses as soon as you get home in the morning.
I know so many words, but I love you more than words.
Roots and wings.
Here she grows.
Or, more accurately,
Here we grow.