Well, here we are.
My monkey is officially, legally an adult.
Now, she's not completely grown yet. I know that. She still has to graduate from high school. She's not drinking age. She still has to follow the rules of the house. She'll still be partially dependent on us for awhile longer.
But in the eyes of the state, she's an adult. She can get married if she wants (gah!). She can vote. She can own property. She can pierce or tattoo whatever she wants without a consent form.
How can something happen so slow and so fast at the same time? Because in some ways it seems like she has always been in my life, always been with me. In other ways it seems like it is too soon, too soon for her to be on the brink of leaving home...leaving her father...leaving me.
I remember 18 years (plus 4 or 5 days) ago, I was in the bath tub (the only place that my back felt good) soaking in the warm water, talking to my belly and feeling her turn and nudge and kick...when I had an absolute God-awful panic attack. In just a few short days, I'd be giving birth to my little baby. And there she'd be...this little helpless, tiny thing...on the outside where ANYTHING could happen to her. She was going to be so fragile! So easily hurt! I mean, come on! Babies come with a HOLE in the top of their heads! How can you be vigilant enough to keep them safe? Once she was born...how could I ever possibly keep her this safe again???
I got out of the tub, dried off and went and found Jeff and blurted all of this out. Bless his heart, by month nine, he was no longer incredulous when I went completely insane...he just hugged me and told me that everything would be fine and that once I had her in my arms I would be glad that I wasn't just going to stay pregnant for the rest of my life. (as if I had a choice)
And he was right. As much as I'd loved that little booger while I carried her...meeting her for the first time took all of that love, all of those motherly instincts and blew them up by approximately a thousand percent.
As I rocked her and nursed her and played with her little fingers and toes, I learned a lot of new things. I learned that I had much more capacity for love than I ever suspected. I learned that I was both harder and softer than I had ever suspected. Just the thought of someone harming this child made me see red....like honest-to-God see red...that had never happened before...I thought it was just an expression. But no, I knew I could inflict bodily harm...even a murder if it meant protecting this little person. One the other hand, looking into her tiny, beautiful face, I knew that no matter what, she was in my heart and nothing that she or anyone else ever said or did would ever change that.
I also learned at that moment that all of that stuff that was "important" to me before? All of the things in my life that were "precious"? Could all go up in flames and as long as I had this child and she was healthy and happy and whole, I would be fine.
And here we are 18 years later...and I've got some of the same feelings and same doubts. What a big, bad, ugly world it can be out there! Jeff and I have raised her well. She's so talented and intelligent! But there's so much BAD stuff out there! I find myself thinking again, "What if something happens to her??" But I have to take a deep breath and trust...trust that this transition will be as wonderful as the last one. That as I move from teaching and disciplining and raising and into my new role of mentoring and advising and consoling and sharing that the rewards will balance the sadness of my empty nest.