5 kids in this house and chaos reigns. Most often we are trying to figure out how to squeeze everyone in, get everyone to sit down, get everyone where they need to be, get everyone to BE QUIET for just 30 seconds. You would think that when we are down a kid we would feel a little relief. And let’s face it, if someone takes the four-year-old off my hands for a day, I might just feel like my load is a little lighter. But then there’s the fourteen-year-old. Starting to spread her wings. Starting to turn her gaze outward from the walls of this house onto the great big world. Starting to be gone…a lot.
We are just hitting a new phase, one where it seems that one event leads to another. We pick her up from play practice, only to drop her off at a friend’s house. She goes from the mall to a movie to a sleepover. Or she needs to squeeze in some babysitting jobs to support that mall habit. And when she is home, her bedroom is her domain. She now disappears for hours doing her thing, emerging only when hunger strikes. It doesn’t really matter why she is gone because it adds up to an often Ellie-free zone, and all I can say is that she is still in my house but I already miss her.
I can see the next four years getting ready to zoom past us. I want to hold on, to slow down, but I can see by the look in her eye that there is just no turning back the clock. Sooner rather than later she will be a summer guest in our home rather than a daily fixture at our kitchen table. And how on Earth do I prepare myself for that? Just thinking about it…I already miss her.
One of the worst parts is right at the time she is leaving us more, she is also becoming even more fun to hang out with. She is growing into this awesome human who is using her gifts out in the world and is often actually rational and gives me fashion advice I actually consider taking. She is a genuinely helpful and productive member of this household most of the time (hey, she’s still 14). She gets the jokes. Plus, she actually understands and enjoys the bands that Todd listens to and can have an educated conversation with him, so I don’t feel as bad about just not getting it. It’s not John Denver or George Michael? Then I’ve got nothing. I watch them chatting away and get tears in my eyes because she’s not even gone and I already miss her.
Playing dress up at 4 **blink** Her first fancy dance up 14. I can’t even….
Tonight I sit in my quiet house and realize this time is just so fleeting. This young lady who made us parents will not be under our roof forever. I remember when she was born, the first words my mom said were, “Don’t you just LOVE her.” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. That sweet moment where my mom knew that I got it. The love. In that moment our universe shifted and I don’t want it to shift again. I thought having a giant boatload of kids would mean that when one left it would hurt less, but I can clearly now see that is not going to be the case. She is here sleeping peacefully in her bed and I already miss her.
So for now, I will cherish the times we have a little bit more, try and be as present as I can be in order to slow down time. I’m making a vow to do the same for all my kids as each one will bring their own shift in the force as they grow out of our home and into the great big world. And I will try to create memories as my parents did, by having time set aside to be together as a family, even if it causes some eye rolling (I’m pretty sure that eye rolling is fake anyway…who would not want to spend time with us, right?). I have such great memories of times growing up when no one left with friends and we all hung out together playing cards or going out to eat and I want this same time for my little family. These are the times my friends, the ones we will hold onto when they are gone.
And if she is not sure why I am holding her back just a little, saying no just a bit, and hugging her just a little tighter, I will explain that my dear, dear daughter, it is because I already miss you.
Love this girl.
Photo credit to Ellie’s friend Keely M. whose amazing display of talent is another sign that they are ALL growing up