Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bye-Bye, Baby

Moroccan Mint Tea...yum!

Our oldest turns 20 in just a few days. This would be an important birthday no matter what, but after spending eight days with her in northern Africa, where she is living as a college student, there is no way to deny our baby is grown and gone and a young adult has taken her place. If not for her level head and language skills, I am pretty certain that I would still be wandering around a souk in Meknés right now. For sure I would have overpaid every single taxi driver and souvenir seller.

So many times that week she grabbed my arm and said, “Mom!” (as in, “pay attention and follow me!”). I was reminded of how I would grab her arm as a child to gently turn her in the right direction. I felt that familiar parental combination of pride and fear upon realizing that this person who breathed her first breath on my chest and depended upon me for absolutely everything is now smarter than I am. 

Baby's first camel ride!

Lest I seem too overly sentimental, it is the very same feeling I have when my 8-year-old quickly fixes the computer problem I cannot seem to repair. And when my 10-year-old effortlessly remembers the old neighbor’s name that I have tried to recall for days. But at least those two will still snuggle with me at bedtime and need help with homework now and then. They still need me in a way that I now know will not last all that long. 

Hat matter the country.
 One of the best things about being a mom, I have found, is getting to watch a child’s inner spirit develop and emerge. It is easy to type-cast the kids, especially in a large family. “You’re the athletic one.” “You’re the music lover.” “You’re the scholar.” We have made an earnest effort to help our kids explore and grow and stretch into roles that might not come naturally. Some of our best moments as parents have happened when we’ve whispered to each other in an audience or cheering crowd, “I can’t believe s/he is doing this!” 

That’s how we felt when our oldest stepped onto a plane in January and took off for a foreign continent not knowing a single soul yet on the other side. She could easily be typecast as “the shy one” who hesitates to talk to someone new. That sentence is truth. But so is this one: Something in her fabric pulls her out into the world to learn and explore and experience and grow. As I let her lead me around Morocco and show me all she’s found there, I knew that letting that baby go was the best thing we could do for her today and always. 
Every minute together a gift.

All too soon I said good-bye and headed home to the rest of our kids who are still in the process of trying on goals and personas. I watched our toddler hurtle down the steepest slide by himself yesterday. He wanted no help in spite of landing in a muddy heap at the bottom every time until he learned to get his feet under him. “I’ll hold your hand,” I offered. “No! Mine!” he answered. 

Later, by email I let our oldest know her return ticket was purchased for the end of May. “I can’t wait to get back,” she answered. “I’m so glad I got to come here, but I can’t wait to be home with all of you soon.” 

Well done, birthday girl, getting your feet under you. Thanks for sometimes holding your mom’s hand just because you can tell I need it even when you do not.

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