By the time you hit your 40s (and I like to say EARLY 40s to make myself feel better) you've been through a lot of stages. I had a quite unattractive stage right around fifth grade where my two front teeth stuck out like a beaver, and my curly hair REFUSED to do wings or curl under or behave in any decent fashion. That was an awkward stage. I don't really want to talk about the teenage stage, other than to say that I was an exemplary teenager who talked WAY too much. The new mom stage was pretty darn fun. And traumatic. I was one of those germ-o-phobe new moms. I carried wet wipes around with me, scouring every surface my baby might potentially touch. I've done toddlers, and elementary schoolers, and junior high. I've done puberty and high school and teenage crushes. I've done college dorms and a mission. But PEOPLE. My very own baby turned 20 last month. Is 20 even a stage? 20, to me, sounds like real life adulthood. 20 sounds like teenager-no-more. And sadly, 20 sounds like it doesn't need its mama.
My oldest turned 20 years old at the end of December. In fact, we were traveling on the actual day, which didn't matter one little bit since she was in France -- doing her missionary thing. We sent her a package, of course, and a letter wherein I reminisced on the fabulous adventure of parenting her, of watching her grow from wee, helpless infant to independent, French-speaking adult.
The most difficult part about 20 is that she's not here. I can't write up a long list of things she likes or does or says. I can't pull down a memory from two months ago and polish it up to represent my sparkling girl. I can't listen to her play a piano piece over and over until she's got it just right. I don't know exactly what she'll be doing tomorrow.
And, sure, I'm probably being overly dramatic. She is a fabulous e-mailer and writer, and she shares lots of really cool experiences. But the day-to-day is happening elsewhere, and that breaks my heart just a little each day.
On the up side? Twenty is learning things about herself and the world that blow my socks off. Her perspective, her compassion, her ability to love and serve is increasing exponentially. This kid (even at 19) was tentative to talk to strangers, to work through administrative red tape, to really put herself outside of her comfort zone. But this same girl taught a 60 year-old man from the Ivory Coast about Jesus Christ IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE. She stands in the center of her village and talks to anyone who will listen. She moved herself from Chalon sur Saone to Toulouse. Twenty is a can-do girl.
I think it's a rotten, dirty trick that we should raise these children up to leave us. I also think there is a grievous gap in the literature of parenting. Where is What to Expect When Your Baby is a Grown Up Person? Or a blog post: "Ten Steps to Understanding That Your Baby is Twenty Years Old"?
Maybe next year, on her 21st birthday, I'll write that post. For now, Internet, just know that I mourn that baby something fierce. And I celebrate that adult with everything I've got. Imagine a shiny, silver pedestal. And Miss Twenty is standing on it. And I'm pointing and waving like a mad woman. Happy Birthday Baby!
Sterling and I talk almost daily about how we will and should handle parenting adult children. Right now our philosophy centers mostly around being a support and help to them emotionally (and yes, financially at the moment) while allowing them the freedom to explore who they are and who they want to become. But we are newbies. Any tried-and-true methods/traditions/examples?