The following was written a week before I started this blog. It is an excerpt from an email that I sent one night to a group of old friends. I speak to my daughter, ok it is more like IM with my daughter quite often and I am amazed at how grown up she is . I have found myself going back and needing to read this to remind myself that yes, she is grown up but that is a good thing, and that no matter how grown up she gets, she will always be my little girl made up of the bricks that we made together.
I am sure many of you have come to realize over the years as I have, it is not the entire “house” that matters. It is the individual “bricks of life” that collectively build the “house” that matter.
I guess I am getting somewhat sentimental this evening because in 5 hours my wife and I and our eldest daughter will be getting in our van and driving 8 hours to the South to drop her off at school. And while this is not our first child we will be taking to school, I still have this sense of loss mixed with joy that I have never felt before. It could be that she is the oldest girl. Or it could be that she will be so far away and we know we won’t see her for at least 3 months. Maybe I am just realizing that with her and her older brother gone we have lost our younger children’s chauffeurs and our own personal errand runners.
When her brother left last year, it was a momentous occasion but it didn’t have this feel. It might have been because his school is in Baltimore and less than an hour away. Or it may have been almost a let down given that he was a 15 year cancer survivor and when your child is stricken with an illness like that you start to think about all the different milestones they may not reach. Then as they beat the disease and start to reach each milestone like first grade, first hit in baseball, first date, etc. they’re great but, well, they’re just events in life that could never live up the expectations or significance you have put on them.
But this with my daughter leaving feels different. She had always been in her brother’s shadow having to spend most of her second year with her two grandmothers’ while we cared for him. Then later he was this child that no matter how much we tried to down play it for our own sanity and the sake of our other children was treated like a “miracle” kid by teachers and others. But she persevered and carved out her own niche as a leader in school, an accomplished dancer and twirler and the type of person who just made everyone feel comfortable and wanted to be around. All the while not fighting being “Ben’s little sister” but being proud of it and making a name for herself.
So what is it that feels wrong? When your children reach high school you know that you will lose some touch with them. They become more independent and you see less and less of them as their social calendars fill up and their time at the dinner table decreases. As independent as she may have become over the past three years, I realize that this move to South Carolina is the next step in her growing up, making a name for herself and conquering a new frontier. When I think of it in these terms I am touched with a sense of pride and a pang of sorrow, because I realize that this is what we as parents have worked so hard to prepare our kids to do. So what I must be feeling is not a sense of loss of my daughter but a sense of loss of my role as a parent.
This is all a good test for me because we have two younger ones who will be in middle school this year and one day leaving home. We always called our kids “the two older ones and the two little ones”. Well the two older ones have moved out and we have the two younger ones to work on now. We are going to make sure the kiln is nice and hot and starting baking some bricks.
Aren’t they lucky?