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My Daughter Turns 18

by Evette Davis

I woke up this morning with grief in my stomach and sadness is my eyes. As I leaned into the emotions, I found them stirring in the pit of my stomach. I went to bed feeling fine, a little tired, but just fine. Something happened overnight while I slept. My brain and my body processed something without my permission, and came to a conclusion filled with sadness. As I turned to the emotion once again, it identified itself. My daughter turns 18 today, and I am sad about it.

I thought about how soon she would be leaving me to fulfil her own goals and find her own way. What about me? Who will I talk to and laugh with and tell to do the dishes? I took a drive down memory lane. It was filled with recollections: some great, a few not so much, and many pleasant memories of her formative years when she would be so happy to see me after school. She would immediately run and give me a big hug, and start telling me about her entire day. My daughter has never been short on words, and talking is how we bond. I knew about all of her friends, her teachers, her accomplishments. “Mommy, today we learned how to multiply!” She would learn quickly and with much eagerness, the first day. A few weeks later she would be complaining about

her times tables, but she took it all in stride.

She was generous with her hugs and kisses for me. I would go in her room at night and settle down with her at the end of the day. We might review her today, her tomorrow, and have a moment of affection and relaxation before bed. I needed that time as much as she did. We connected, we shared, we grew together, much like the branch of a tree and the offshoots that depend on it. They both grow together, each supporting the other. I enjoyed that time with my daughter.

The teenage years came, and something happened. That, sweet, talkative child turned into a cold, curt monster! After a simple request from her dear, sweet mother, she would stomp up the stairs in rebellion. As if I had just asked her to clean all the houses in the neighborhood, she would look at me with arms folded and steam coming from both ears. “I’m not doing it. I have homework!” At that point, explaining that we all have duties and responsibilities in life, and we all have to learn how to manage them, seemed like a good idea only to me. For now, I would let her vent and release whatever garbled teenaged emotions she was feeling inside.

During those tumultuous teen years, I received more threats from her than kisses. Threats of her leaving the house and never returning, threats of her running away, and declarations of “I hate you!” Those days were long and hard. I remember thinking to myself, quite frequently, actually, how I couldn’t wait until she’d be grown. I knew once she was older and mature, she would appreciate the discipline and structure I gave her. But now, my parenting feels like a noose around her rapidly expanding teenage neck. There was nothing good I could do at that time. It seemed like the battle between us would never end. And I prayed for this day to come closer.

My daughter turns 18 today, and I am reminded of the quickness of time. Where did it go? It went right to my wrinkled skin, aching knees and grey hair. It went to the trophies and bruises, both visible signs of playing on the sports team. It went to the Sunday family dinners and sweet birthday parties. The family vacations and sleepovers. The school plays and after school activities. Now as I sit on the other side of this, I wish time would switch directions and pay me a dividend for all the time spent. It’s so ironic how this works. We parents are so busy—parenting, working, cooking, driving, along with all the other verbs, we rarely get to sit back and enjoy the moment. Although I’ve read more than my share of meditation manuals that explain this very concept- of being present and enjoying the moment—the demands of life just squeeze every ounce of energy out of you, there is no time to sit still, let alone be present. Not when you have to be at the basketball game and the parent meeting and the study group and the friend’s party. Who has time to “be and breathe?”

I try not to be hard on myself. I look at my daughter and know that I have done an excellent job raising her, and mostly on my own. I just feel deceived, tricked, bamboozled. The early mornings of getting her up for feedings through to the late nights of talking with her about her problems with boys just stole center stage. And now that the curtain is closing and she’s about to exit stage right, I’m begging for an encore. But the replay that I want isn’t the entire life story all over again, it’s for the sweet times-- another swing on the swing set, another Adventures of Sunny bedtime story and kiss goodnight, another vacation where we sit and talk on the beach.

My daughter turns 18 today, and I am still sad about it. When I woke up this morning, I felt a grief in my abdomen. That grief was the severing of the umbilical cord. And now I am really grieving. Instinctively I know a death is near. I feel the heaviness of her leaving me. It is the death of my baby girl that I feel. I allow myself to grieve and mourn, giving ample place to this time and space. Although my eyes are filled with tears, this too shall pass. And one day, as I look across the room at a beautiful woman, my eyes will fill with tears once again. But this time, at the birth of a beautiful woman, my daughter.

Evette Davis, Author

Evette Davis is a single mother of 3. Evette is a native of Washington, DC, where she raised her 3 children and led them from K-12 public schools to our nation’s top universities. She is a parenting expert, author, and a huge advocate of early learning and childhood education. Check out her book set, The Adventures of Sunny on Amazon.

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