I sat across from her.
The girl, my daughter, the girl who is now no longer a girl, but a woman.
I looked at her. At the hair I used to braid. At the freckles.
Twenty years ago, at the cusp of midnight, she entered my life.
And for twenty years, we’ve done the dance, the learning, the living together. Our ups and downs and stumbles and times of utter hopelessness and complete joy.
She once was so little and I was her hero.
I was the one her eyes would look for after preschool, her hand fit so snuggly, so tightly in my hand.
I knew her favorite food, her favorite color, the exact song to sing when she was scared.
Memories moved though my mind, spinning faster and faster, like the films of old.
Minute after minute. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.
And with each tick of the clock also came this process of letting go.
No one tells you about that letting go when they place the newborn in your arms. They don’t tell you about how every single day you spend together is this slow place of letting go, letting them grow.
Time seems to stretch invincibly in front of our lives.
There is always tomorrow we tell ourselves.
And then there comes the day, the day like my day on the morning of my daughter’s twentieth birthday where I think where did time go?
I don’t know what I would tell the twenty year younger me to change. I think that’s the profound truth I want to tell all of you moms with that newborn on your lap or that new child in your life – don’t listen to us parents with older kids about time going so fast and savoring every moment. Because the truth is – you can’t even though it seems like that is what everyone always tells you. I don’t think you learn that part until you get through life and then, well, only then do you get the perspective of looking back. It’s not something taught, but something learned.
You can’t live in fear of missing out or messing up or not grabbing all the moments.
You can only live doing your best.
Trying and loving and trying again and loving even more in the tension of a moving timeline.
I have messed up in so many ways with my kids. I yelled and lost my patience and got frustrated and felt like I was failing. Oh the failing days, the days when I had no clue what to do next. Those days are thick. But there were also days tucked in there of simple joy. Of books read. Of hope in my heart. I know it. And in it all, I have never stopped showing up. In my prayers and heart and in the hard spaces.
And that, well that is what I realized today as I stared at the eyes of a woman who I watched grow.
Live fully, sweet mom. Don’t worry about the check-lists and to-do lists and measuring up and never making a mistake. Don’t allow fear to dictate and when it does don’t be hard on yourself. Love you for you, for all the spaces where you are learning to find courage and bravery and try new things.
In it all show up. Live with joy. With hope. With grace.
But with each stumble, you’ll also mother.
That’s what I’ve learned.
Carry on, sweet mother.
You have a life to live.
Twenty years. A split second.