Last night I put my oldest daughter on a bus to New York City. We have been planning for the trip for a while, buying new clothes, packing her suitcase, picking out music to load on her MP3 player, choosing something to read on the bus, looking over her itinerary. All of the stuff you'd expect to be doing when you're preparing for a trip.
I forgot to prepare my heart to send my (not so) little girl away.
This isn't her first trip. She's done sleep away camp. She frequently spends a week or two away at my parents in the summer. She's done overnight trips with her friends and with church. So I wasn't really thinking much about her being gone.
But last night when she climbed on the bus and settled into the window seat, waving at me before turning to discuss Dr. Who with her best friend, I felt a little pang in my heart that I wasn't expecting.
Maybe it was the juxtaposition between the stylish pink bag and the frog pillow pet she was carrying. Maybe it was seeing her among all of her peers who look much older than they have a right to look. Maybe it was just that she's going to a city that I remember visiting when I was her age. Maybe it was that it was late and I was just tired.
Mostly I think it was because it's another reminder that my daughter is growing up and sometimes it's hard for me to think that I'm just a month away from being the mother of a teenager. Not just because that makes me older that I want to be, but because as my kids grow up, the choices they make have a much greater impact. The friends they choose. The causes they champion. The beliefs that they embrace or reject.
These are good things. Growing up, becoming an individual - these are things that I want for my kids. I don't want them to be dependent on me to fix things or make decisions for them and I hope that I'm giving them the tools to become the young men and women that I know they can be.
But still. I miss those moments when they fell asleep in my arms. I miss being able to get a belly laugh just for hiding behind a piece of cloth and then showing my face. I miss being able to sniff the tops of their heads and tickling their tummies and even changing diapers (because baby butts, once clean, are just plain adorable). As much as I have had an impact on my kids (and I see evidences every now and again that I have), these activities have shaped me into the person that I am as well. One who is hopefully more compassionate, more affectionate, more open with an "I love you."
One whose heart will break just a little bit if she spies a bus the next few days.
If you're a parent, what's your favorite part about parenting? What's the hardest? If you're not, what is a good memory you have of the folks who raised you?