Today, my daughter turned twenty.
I appreciate this irony as I sip on her birth
year bottle of Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Napa Valley Cabernet
Sauvignon: in her eyes, her BIG birthday is still a year away
(twenty-one), but in my eyes, her true big birthday is now. She is no longer a teenager. When she turned 18, in my mind it was easy to
pretend that didn’t make her a real adult.
Going off to college, living in her own apartment, making her own choices…all
of these I could rationalize that she was still my little girl. My cute, dancing four-year-old or my sassy,
leopard-print-loving ten-year-old. I
made it through the years of watching my little girl grow and mature in huge
leaps and bounds. With getting later curfews, having long-term boyfriends, buying
prom dresses, traveling alone, and paying college tuition. Though each of these ripped a little hole in
my heart, she was still a teenager. I
still had that. But I can’t say that
The day I gave birth to Ashlyn, I was
actually two years younger than she
is on this birthday. Every single day of
adulthood I have known, I have been a parent.
Every single day. Is this sense
of devotion I have to parenthood better than what other parents feel for their
children? Definitely not. But is it different? Very much.
I have never had a day without a worry of whether my babies were
okay. The anxiety of being a good parent
is so instilled in my brain, I rarely have a thought without my children in the
equation. Parenting is all I know. Though it is not all I have, it is what I
have had the longest. Longer than my
college degree. Longer than my career. Longer than my love of wine. Longer than anything. Longer, even, than the time I have been
married to their father.
So as I sip my beautiful twenty-year-old
wine, do I believe that no longer being a teenager means my daughter doesn’t
need me? In some ways, no, she doesn’t.
I look at her and see the young woman she has become. She is a beautiful woman,
inside and out. She is strong,
independent, smart, and driven. I know
my devotion to parenthood--often at the expense of other parts of my life--has
been well worth it. I know that one
chapter of my parenting is, in fact, ending.
I also know how thankful I am to still have her brother at home. To still have a child to devote time and energy
toward, until he, too, will move closer to adulthood.
With this birthday she has taken yet
another step in her growth toward autonomy and life without her mother, father,
and family. I’m reminded of the saying, "Give your children roots and
wings." As I sit sipping a glass of wine with her dad--a glass she is not
yet old enough to legally share with us--I know that she will be expanding her
own wings a little bit further. I also know that no matter how old or
independent she is, I am always her devoted mother. I have given her the wings she needs to fly
out of adolescence and into true adulthood.
But I also know she has strong roots to bring her home whenever she