Last night I blinked, and in front of me was a tangible symbol of an upcoming transition—my daughter’s Grad Invitations, lovely cards with proud mortarboards and tassles on a background of school colors, black and gold. The theme this year? Don’t Blink.
Don’t Blink, because you’ll take her face in your hands and see that it is an adult’s face, yet it is also the face of your baby who nursed, your toddler who banged her eye and blackened it learning to walk, your little girl on her first day of school, and your teenager who landed her first part in the school play.
Don’t Blink because you will be baffled—where did your little girl go? Where is she going? And what if she needs you and you are not there?
Don’t Blink—because then those tears floating in your eyes will fall, and she will see that parenting has cost you your heart, and she will know that even though she has an amazing landscape of endless opportunities in front of her, if you had the choice, you’d hit the rewind button instead and do it all again—starting way back when she was too tiny to even have a face, but was floating there in your womb.
Don’t Blink because time is ruthless and has flown by, even though you were sure the earth was standing still when that colicky baby just wouldn’t stop crying, and when it seemed like she would never be old enough to have the independence you lost when you became her parent and she needed you every minute of every day.
Don’t Blink. It hurts.
Just yesterday—which was really six years ago—I wrote the following reflection after my then-little girl started Grade Six. I filed it away, unable to read it. I look at it now and it feels more like a forecast than what it was at the time; a lament about how fast they get big. A requiem, if you will, about Blinking. Here it is in its entirety. I called it
First Morning of Grade Six today and there were friends to see. Miss Rorke to re-connect with (she got engaged!). So much to do and hear and reintegrate yourself with…. I saw, clearly and for the first time, how Vanier School is your domain. My presence was superfluous.
Leaving, I looked at the ground instead of the sky.
You were so excited for this new year to start, to be back in your arena…you weren’t even aware I was there.
A few tears fell as I drove away from school and I knew you’d be baffled if you saw me cry. But what you don’t know is that everyone of your firsts is also a last. Each milestone you conquer makes your life flash before my eyes. I see you enter Grade Six today yet I also see you walk into the high school. Graduate. Have that first heartbreak. That first move from home. University. An engagement, a marriage and ….and like today I will be superfluous. An observer.
Your innocence is slipping away like the petals of the flowers in this, our fall weather. Your face is losing ‘child’ and developing ‘character’. Your very countenance is already more woman than girl.
I carried you under my heart – wasn’t that just yesterday?—and here the world has kept turning while I thought it stood still.
I wonder how it happened.
I wonder if one day you, like me, will mourn all the firsts.
br, September, 2009
Now graduation is six weeks away and another First Morning is in the wind—this time to University in the city, hours away from home. The time I’ve had with my girl over these past seventeen, magnificent years has been the greatest joy of my life. Simultaneously, time has also been my greatest punishment: for in retrospect I’m breathless at how fast it all really flies—far, far quicker than all those minutes it took to rewind The Lion King umpteen times in a day for my toddler. Far quicker than it took her to learn how to speak with clear diction and no longer need help from the speech pathologist. Far quicker than the awkward years when girls could be mean and the body grew in weird ways that made her feel awkward and frumpy (even though she never was). Far quicker too than it took to plug through critical analysis of literary works she astonished me by hating (how did I have a science gal?!).
I have learned so much in this first stage of parenting, this pre-launch phase when even though she studied, worked, accomplished, and performed, she was still only mere footsteps from my side when she slept at night. I have learned what I can actually sum it up in a sentence—a Grad theme, if you will—and it is:
br ~ April 2015