This is the post about Corinne turning 18 that I’ve been trying to write for an entire year. Technically she doesn’t turn 19 for another eleven hours, so I made it. Barely. It took this long to come to to terms with the transition to being the parent of an adult. The past year saw her graduate from high school, be responsible for translating Mexico for me and vice-versa (“Mom. Stop trying to speak Spanish. Just stop.”), move into dorms, make the Dean’s List, get a driving permit, and plan a trip to Spain this summer. She’s had a remarkable year, and I’m so proud of her.
It’s SO hard, though. Nothing prepares you for the Age of Majority. One day their entire life is your responsibility, and the next they can do whatever they want and in order to access to their confidential information, they have to sign a document giving you explicit permission. Having a relationship with you becomes fully their choice, and it’s remarkably sudden.
When she was born, I used to say that the upside of having a baby at 22 is that I would be “free” at 40 and it would be awesome because I’d get to have my twenties when I had the sense and money to properly enjoy them. I used to think that freedom was something I wanted, because I wasn’t prepared to be a mother when I found myself becoming one. But somewhere along the way she became my dear friend and I stopped being in such a hurry for my friend to go out into the world and make it hers. Now I jump at every chance for even 5 minutes to be helpful, because motherhood is a habit, and it’s almost impossible to kick.
One of the things about being among the first in your social circles to breed is that you end up being the voice of experience, even if that experience is barely a step ahead of theirs and you’re basically making it up as you go along because you had no siblings & rarely even babysat. Still, the one thing I’ve always been clear about advising is that parenting is one long letting go, pretty much from the moment they depart your body. First you’re kind of happy about it – you can eat a full meal without your stomach getting kicked from the inside, then they sleep through the night, they wean, they play by themselves, they play with other children, they have overnights, they have sports, and you have little moments where you get to rediscover yourself as something other than a mom, and you long for more. Then sometime around adolescence they start filtering themselves, and develop entire lives that you may or may not know much about depending on how acceptable you make it for them to be fully themselves, and they don’t want to connect with you as much and you long for more. Then suddenly you’re packing up their stuff, and it feels like someone else is taking custody of your left leg and you realize that you never want to stop being a mom, and in fact it’s really hard to figure out what to do with yourself now that you’re not momming most of the time. Even if you’ve spent their whole lives preparing for it, one letting go at a time, the longing is still there.
So I’ve had a year to grieve, and to adjust. I sometimes forget how much I miss her, until we drive 75 minutes to her campus just to have dinner, and for a couple of hours I feel right again. She just left from being here for Spring Break, and it was particularly hard because I knew that I wasn’t going to see her on her birthday for the first time ever. It’s hard to explain the simultaneous sadness and joy of having an adult child (and can I just say that I hate that term? But not as much as kid-ult, so until I find a better word, it’s going to have to suffice) to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. Just like it’s sort of impossible to explain what it’s like to have boobs no matter how hard we might try.
I guess as tropey as it is, what I’m saying is that they really do grow up unbelievably quickly. Please know that in what ever way your kid is driving you nuts right now, you will miss it terribly one day. It always feels in the moment like you’re going to suffer like this forever, but things change before you can blink. It feels like yesterday that I sat in the park on her first day of Kindergarten, crying because my baby wasn’t a baby any more – which seems sort of silly now because five is pretty damn little, but at the time I wasn’t ready for her to already be on to school age and I was sort of amazed that my toddler had vanished in the night and been replaced by an honest-to-goodness little girl. Now she’s an honest-to-goodness woman, about to go spend two months on another continent.
The good news is that you never stop enjoying watching them grow and change. And she will always be the only person who once knew my body as the whole universe.