March 31, 2003
Those of you who have been around here for a while have likely met my dad. And if you’ve REALLY been around for a while, you have probably heard me say that he was a middle school principal for the better part of forty-five years.
At every seventh-grade graduation, my dad would address the audience of proud parents. “Sixty months,” my dad would say. “Sixty months. That’s all you have between now and the time they leave your house. Sixty months.” He’d wait – let them chew on it for a moment. A gymnasium full of heads would slowly begin to nod as they took it in. Their kids were off to high school. Five years later, they’d likely, in some form or another, be heading out into the world. Five years sounded like a lot. Sixty months did not.
Luau and I took the girls to the last moving-up ceremony over which my father presided before his retirement. Just as he always had, he reminded the room full of parents and grandparents just how fast their time with their children would fly by. I looked around as he spoke. While the parents in the crowd looked surprised, the grandparents nodded knowingly. Some wiped away tears.
My dad never stops reminding me how short a parent’s time is with their child. Every time he visits, there’s a point at which he looks at the girls, wells up, then turns to me with his head shaking and says, “That was you, Jessie. I swear, just five minutes ago, that was YOU.”
When Katie turned nine recently, he immediately told me that I had less than a year before she was in the double digits. Seven before she was driving. “For God sake, Dad,” I said, “can’t ya just let her be nine?”
He laughed. Because after all, that’s the whole point of the exercise – making sure that I remember how fast the time will slip through my fingers. Reminding me to cherish each and every age – each and every phase, stage and moment. Because no matter how trying any of them may be, they are finite. Our children grow up.
Today, my baby girl turns seven. It makes no sense to me. Seven. No matter how many times I say it, it still sounds like someone somewhere must have forgotten to carry the one. There’s got to be a mistake. Seven.
But no, there’s no mistake. Somehow, it has actually been seven years since the day the nurse first handed me my beautiful baby girl. Seven years since the day that my heart exploded without warning, splitting open to make room for her to crawl right in. She made herself a home there. She’s never left.
In these seven years my little girl has taught me so very much more than I could ever dream of teaching her. She has shown me what it means to love without judgement. She has led me to a well of compassion and empathy and understanding. She has pushed me to be a better mother, a stronger person, a more open friend and far more engaged member of a community.
She has taught me that each and every one of us has a responsibility to learn from and about one other, to share our stories, to look past our fears, our insecurities, our discomfort – to find the people underneath what we think we see.
She’s taught me that love doesn’t always use – and never needs – words. She’s taught me to slow down. She’s pushed me – nay, forced me – to find my voice. And to trust it. She’s given me so much more than I could ever ask of a child. I hope to God I’ve given her just a fraction of it in return.
My sweet girl,
You are laughter. You are determination. You are grace. You are joy. You are love.
I am proud beyond my wildest dreams to call you my daughter.
As you turn seven today, please know that your Mama loves you more than the moon, the stars and everything in between.
One very lucky mama