It is the eve of the night before my first baby girl Neriah becomes an adult. How did this day come so soon? This natural rite of passage I imagined gently greeting me hit me like a bold question mark at the end of a sentence. Despite the lack of emotional preparation, the day unfolds, and with it a boatload of emotions. Senior year, 18th birthday, and college acceptance letters all at once, like life’s most consequential final exam with no negotiable prep time.
It seems like only yesterday her perfectly soft little legs wrapped around my waist as we explored foreign lands like the Belizean Jungle, Morocco and South America during my stint as the host of Wild On. Little did the rest of the world know that the quintessential travel guide/party girl had a new born baby in tow. Neriah and I were always a package deal, whether we were traveling the globe or resting in our family bed. It was Mommy and Neriah versus the world! Every page of her baby passport was stamped by the time she was 2 yrs. old, what an amazing travel partner! For 5 years we never spent a night apart–it was the formative years of our amazing mother daughter relationship.
I took comfort in understanding my role as a mom, doing the best I could, and learning many hard lessons from my children along the way. But what now? What exactly is expected of a mommy of a super independent, fierce, strong young woman with fragile characteristics hiding behind the facade of a blooming You-Tuber?
Emotions set off in my mind like bright colored fireworks ranging from sadness to enthusiasm. With softness and grace I decide to learn to walk the fine line of my new appointed role, reminding myself to leave her enough space, but not too much in hopes to settle in to what is just right. Tracy McMillan reminded me that children will fire us as their boss, and if we play our cards right they shall re-hire us as their consultant. I never imagined parenting to be quite like that. To be brutally honest, we grow them, give birth to them, love them unconditionally, keep them safe, teach them about faith and then we’re suppose to just let them go….WTF?!
As all of these thoughts and emotions play out like a circus in my mind, my phone rings….As life would have it it’s my soon-to-be adult baby. “Hey Babe, what’s up?” I ask and we start dishing about her B‑day and the upcoming Spring Break vacay, her last hoorah before college. The moments that followed floored me and touched me to the core of my struggling soul. To my surprise, I am offered the most precious gift I could have ever imagined. She says, “Mama would you like to go away together for my birthday, just you and me?” I’m not going to lie, I thought she was joking. I mean, an 18 year old wanting to hang out with mom??? And let me share, that she is a VERY social, overly scheduled teenager ,who RARELY has time for dear-old-mama. “YES, I would love to do that!” Pick anywhere in the world you want to go and I will take you for your 18th birthday.” Now I know that may seem extravagant, but if you only knew what the last few years have looked like in our mother and daughter relationship you may understand what a mom’s love is capable of dishing out and how a sprinkle of guilt and longing, will make you cross the river.
This felt like balm on my heart, the answer my soul secretly longed to hear from her. And so we began planning our very special and much needed mother-daughter trip. Off we go in just a week for a Spring Break getaway that will forever mark the beginning of her adulthood and a newfound friendship that I have been waiting 18 years for. I say that with the utmost respect for the relationship between mother and child, which I have worked very hard to define as parental and not two friends finding their way through life.
This is my first opportunity to celebrate my “baby” as her most loyal and loving friend with mutual respect.
I understood that my main role is to continue to encourage her exploration, alleviate her sadness and continue to remind her how wonderful she is when she forgets. I am so grateful to get this special time together at such a pivotal and emotional time for both of us. The reality is, most of us parents struggle with the transition of our children leaving home and so do our children, they are just not aware. Actually, they’re not even fully awake.
As I begin to accept our new parts in each other lives, and step down as “BOSS”, I will deepen our relationship as mother and daughter and all its many cherished gifts.
For those of you struggling to let go, I feel you. But instead of a beating aching heart, try to open it to exciting to new possibilities. Time slows for no one. Change is inevitable and now, we get to witness the growth and power of a mother daughter relationship made from 18 years of unconditional love. I am so excited to watch my daughter soar. My first baby will leave home soon, but she will forever be my baby.