Today, Darling Daughter heads off to school.
She is officially an 8th grader, her last year of Junior High. She's nearly as tall as I am (She's 5' 6-1/2", I'm 5'8") and has transformed into a beautiful young woman.
When did this happen? What happened to my baby girl?
I became a mother late in life. In all honestly I decided years before that I never wanted children. Other people had children and most of them annoyed the heck out of me. Co-workers would have babies, bring them in to the office for a visit, and ask me if I'd like to hold the baby...and I always said no.
What did I know? Or rather, what didn't I know? For one thing, I didn't know that when you have a child of your own, your love for that child is so strong and all-encompassing that it eliminates all those other "annoying-child" distractions.
I had Darling Daughter late in life, and I didn't even know I wanted children. However, because I was older, with more life experience, I knew enough to savor every moment with this little creature who now owned my heart. I knew time was fleeting, and I cherished my time with her.
As she was an only child, The Hubs insisted she go to nursery school. He said she needed to interact with other children. He was right, of course. But my heart wanted her home with me for as long as possible. Nursery school turned to Kindergarten which became Elementary school. I went back to work part-time but I still had my summers free. Darling Daughter and I would go on what we called Our Adventures. The Hubs is a workaholic so I made it a point to show Darling Daughter that there was more to life and the world than Tiny Town.
Time passed, and she grew up, and grew more independent, and then the teen years started and she didn't want to spend time with me at ALL. I remembered feeling the same way about my parents so I understood. But that didn't make it any easier.
Last summer she became a Creature Of The Night. She went to Girl Scout Moonlight Camp, which meant they stayed up till the wee hours and slept most of the day. Coming home after a week of this camp changed her sleep pattern completely. I might see her if I got up to use the restroom in the middle of the night - otherwise, she slept till noon, or later if she could. I tried to break her of it, but couldn't. I felt like I spent the whole summer waiting for her to wake up and come with me someplace - any place! But she didn't snap out of it until school started. There were no more Adventures.
At the beginning of this summer, I began a new job which entailed working during the summer. I hated the thought of Darling Daughter being home alone every day, but after the experience of LAST summer, decided maybe it wasn't such a big deal. The job is part-time and I'd probably be home shortly after she got up. Still, I worried.
But a surprising thing happened. She actually wanted to be with me. (Not that she would admit it, you understand). By mid-July she'd come to work with me occasionally . (That's one of the great things about working for a church-they understand children exist and are part of our lives!) By the first of August she was coming with me every day. She brings her laptop and some books; there's an empty office she spends her time in. She occasionally comes across the hall to give me a hug or touch base about something.
It's been WONDERFUL. We have made a habit of swinging through a drive-up window each morning, I get my iced coffee and she gets a muffin. On the drives to and from work we sing along to CD's (Stevie Nicks and Elvis are our current favorites). We joke and laugh. We run errands together after work. On a couple of Fridays we even had pizza delivered to the office for lunch (there are no restaurants in Tiny Town, so Darling Daughter has rarely experienced "delivery").
Now - today - she goes back to school. It's like a double-whammy. Not only do I have the mother-sadness that goes with sending your child off to school, but I'm really going to miss my "sidekick". We've spent more one-on-one time this summer than we have in a long time. I feel like I just got my kid back and now she's off again.
Dang, motherhood is hard.