“Pretty Eyed, Pirate Smile”

What a tumultuous week. Three months ago, signaled by the last school bell on the last day, Aubrey became a Senior. Moms always joke about the first day of kindergarten, but I’d trade in an instant. The start of kindergarten means they are still yours for 13 more years. While I don’t mean to say that Aubrey won’t still be my daughter nine months from now, I do find it somewhat significant that school runs on a nine month schedule. Much like 18 years ago, the next nine months are pregnant with expectation, and wraught with bittersweet moments.

Fall is my favorite season, especially in South Texas. The days finally start to cool off, the sky is an impossibly bright blue, and the mosquitoes ease off enough to allow swinging in a hammock in the evening. This year is different. I dread every degree drop in temperature, as it pulls us ever closer to spring and graduation. I know that in nine months, my thoughts will be screaming “I’m not ready! Let someone else do this!” much like when I realized I was in labor.

However, the evidence surrounds me that it is almost time to let go. Not quite yet, but almost. I worry every day, did I teach her what to do in case of an emergency? Well, yes. Can she follow a recipe, do a load of laundry, clean a bathroom, shop for groceries? Yes. But, did I teach her how to heal from a broken heart, deal with a crappy coworker, avoid making friends with people who will not have her best interests in mind? Probably not. I’m not the best role model, and my first instinct is to go kick someone’s ass. I’m afraid I have passed that on to her; she may not lose her temper, but she can freeze the ground with a glance. Too easily, she can transform from Cinderella to Ice Queen. Only the Universe can teach her some lessons, as that knowledge comes with time, not training.

As I flip through pictures of her leaping through the air, I remember the first time I saw a photo of an Irish dancer in a jump, leg straight out in front, other leg bent with heel to butt. When she started dancing, Aubrey was so tiny, and seemed so frail from her year of fighting with fibromyalgia, I couldn’t picture her with the strength or the stamina to pull it off. I look at the picture of her flying three feet off the ground, shoulders back, head up, proud, strong, willfull, with her blue eyes flashing a dare for you to look away from her in all of her magnificence. Where did this woman come from? The little girl is gone, and we are left with this elegant creature in her place.

With Aubrey now 17, I still want to hold her hand through every danger, ever ready to put her safely behind me while I do battle. Instead, I have to let her go, let her learn to fight her own battles, but still remain standing by, just in case. I think that’s what it means to be a mom in the adult sense of the word. There’s not so much vomit and stickiness, although sometimes I long for those days as I navigate us both through a world of mean girls, spiteful schoolteachers, and enough heartbreak and drama to rival the best of nightime television. No, being a mom now means letting go of the bicycle without training wheels, watching from the edge of the pool as she dives in, and staying up until she gets home when her friends do the driving.

So as we barrel towards an end not quite in sight, but just over the horizon, I have to trust that she has learned to leap, and will eventually land safely on the other side of the chasm of young adulthood. If not, she knows I’ll be waiting at the bottom to catch her if she needs me.

“Now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.”