This I Believe

Ellen - Laguna Beach, California
Entered on June 5, 2007

In the Blink of an Eye

Now that my daughter is sixteen, I finally believe that childhood passes in the blink of an eye. It’s a realization that took years to sink in. She was ten the first time I realized she was growing up. Walking around a Halloween carnival looking age-appropriately cute in cowboy boots, a zebra-patterned ten gallon, shiny jeans, a red belt and a sheer white blouse, she attracted a double take from a boy in her fifth grade class. It hit me like a bucking bronco. Her childhood was waiting to bust out of the corral gates and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Of course, nothing changed from that soul-shaking moment to the next. We still enjoyed the kiddy rides that day and even won a few goldfish at the ball toss booth. In parenthood, as in the rest of life, true epiphanies are rare. Most changes happen almost imperceptibly over minutes, hours, days, months and years. Time’s passage is masked by routines like carpools, homework, orthodontist appointments and soccer practice, punctuated by birthdays, holidays and vacations.

My daughter’s growth from a preteen into a young woman parallels my passage from young motherhood into middle age. As she started to attract looks and smiles from the opposite sex, the checker at the local market stopped calling me miss and started addressing me as ma’am. As she developed breasts, I got wrinkles. As she entered the emotional minefield of adolescence, I began muddling through the memory-numbing battleground of perimenopause.

Similarly, her worries about college and career goals and crises of confidence over schoolwork, extracurricular activities and relationships mirror my own high school experience, when I struggled with some of the same insecurities over identity and self worth. Like her, I also formed close friendships that helped me navigate this often painful time. Her best friends are in many ways her surrogate family—the ones she “hangs” with and turns to for advice while her dad and I stand by. If she has chosen well, some of these friends might stay close for her lifetime.

I thought of my daughter as I giggled and whispered late into the night with my best friends from high school at a recent overnight reunion. Thirty-one years have passed since I was sixteen, but my teenage self is still a part of me.

Our best friends, like our families, have the ability to see us as we were and appreciate how far we have come. With friends like this, time collapses and past becomes present, making it possible to be young again no matter how much time has passed. Well on her way to adulthood, my daughter will always be my child. As we both navigate life’s currents, we can always count on these connections to keep us young.