I don’t write a whole lot about my kids here. I write about them, of course, and our life together. But I don’t often write about them, like tell stories that belong to them or share little pieces of who they are.
But today I’m going to.
This is Coco, I don’t use her real name here for several reasons. She’s turning 17 today and my mommy heart can barely take it. Of course, I’ve had plenty of time to prepare. She’s been reminding me that she’s “almost 17” since she was 16 and a half.
I had just turned 19 when I had her, not quite a grown-up, but not exactly a kid. I didn’t meet my husband until after she was born, so I always tell her that she was my first love.
All the things that go through your mind when you’re a mom are going through my mind today.
She’s growing up too fast. I remember when she used to hold my hand when we walked. Her first day of kindergarten. The major fit she threw when we told her in sixth grade that we’d be homeschooling the next year. The sweet victory when she fell in love with homeschool and announced that you ‘couldn’t pay her to go back to traditional school.’
But mostly today, I’m thinking of lullabies and rocking chairs, and a certain pink elephant. I’m thinking of bedtimes and how they’ve changed over the years.
This is the baby that wouldn’t sleep unless I was holding her, so I held her through every nap for an entire year.
This is the toddler that slept with Baby and Pinky, a doll and a pink elephant that would get worn beyond repair and are now living in her hope chest, ready to move on with her when she goes.
This is the preschooler that took pre-k in the class next door to the one I was teaching in and sometimes I would get to sneak in and rub her back at naptime.
This is the 6 year old that still crawled into our bed sometimes in the middle of the night, and prayed every single night at bedtime for a little brother or sister. She got one
This is the 9 year old that I let get up and watch I Love Lucy reruns sometimes when she had trouble falling asleep. We giggled and drank hot chocolate and broke all the bedtime rules.
This is the 12 year old that slammed the door to her room sometimes and went to bed angry, even though we are really against that in this house.
This is the 14 year old that had a really rough year and her mommy slept outside her bedroom sometimes.
This is the 15 year old that continued to have sleepovers with her little sister, inviting her into her room for the night and talked about boys and parents and ate too much candy. They still do this.
This is the 16 year old that shares her bed with me sometimes until 2 in the morning because we are talking and insists that I take her pillow to lean on, when we both know my pillow is steps away, but if I get up it might ruin the moment.
This is my 17 year old.
She’s growing up too fast. She’ll leave us, part-time, to seek higher education next year. She wants to be a sign-language interpreter or maybe a chef. She loves Jesus. She is very loyal, but can hold a grudge like you wouldn’t believe. She’s funny and smart, and oh so gorgeous. Boys fall at her feet. She sings. She writes. She sees when someone is lonely and reaches out to them. We laugh and cry and talk and sometimes, we disagree and we yell.
We love each other to pieces.
I’m not so sure what I’ll do or who I’ll be when she moves on and someday moves out. Raising this kid has been my life since I was pretty much still a kid. I have her sister to raise and her Daddy to love and help, but our family is four, not three. Four.
What will her little sister and I do without her dry wit during our homeschool days? Who will say,”Mom, you’re so weird!” at least once a day? What will I do when I’m worried about her at night and I can’t sit outside her door and know she’s okay?
And, yet, I can’t imagine things staying the same. She is so ready. Everything we’ve poured into her has been preparing her for this. The growing up, the moving on. She is bright and gifted in ways she doesn’t even fully comprehend yet. She has a God-given purpose and nothing could make me want to thwart that.
So, I will let go. When the time comes, and she’s no longer in my care and under my supervision, I’ll remind myself of this. That the Maker of the World has a plan for her. And when our house is a little quieter than usual and I’m missing my baby elephant, I trust that God will give me His peace that transcends understanding.
When she stands on the stage this coming May and graduates High School, I’ll know that I did my best and that she knows she’s loved. What more can any of us ask for?
I’m so proud of her and the person she is. We’re so alike, but we are also so very different. She is Coco, and there’s no one like her.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t rock your kids to sleep, or hold them when they nap. It goes so fast and I promise, 17 years from now you will not regret it, not even a little.