by Lisa on July 24, 2017

“It’s a girl!” Those three simple words of December 23, 2000 changed our lives forever.

I knew from the very beginning that our job description was to love, to nurture, and to care for this sweet little baby we named Isabelle. I knew too that we were to grow, guide, and steer her. The thing I could not quite wrap my hormonal brain around was the fact that one of our parental requirements would be to prepare this tiny pink-skinned infant to launch—to equip her for adulthood. Focusing strictly on the moment at hand and the black-haired, chubby-cheeked bundle in my arms those future days seemed far, far away—looming in the way distant future.

The first week with my sweet baby Isabelle was such a joy, and the subsequent days that followed just seemed to meld into the next. I was riding the endless roller coaster cycle of feeding, changing, rocking, and soothing. Sleep deprived and recovering from a C-section, I just seemed to be on autopilot. Not really thinking about the future, but living completely and fully in the moment.

Those moments began to build upon one another and add up while time kept marching forward. Very quickly we started marking and tracking milestones—the first month, the first laugh, the first food, her first word, her first step, her first birthday. The milestones just kept coming rapid fire. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years.  And, then, they slowed. The milestones became less frequent and more, if I dare say, routine. The first day of ballet, the first violin lesson, the first day of school, her first tooth falling out—all big and significant, mind you, but seemly more mundane. More ordinary. More like  just a part of life with a child. And, while each of the “mundane” milestone in of itself seemed significant, there seemed to be peppered in with the mundane the bigger and greater Milestones—you know—those really big moments that are forever etched into my brain.

Her first Milestone happened when she was about two and a half or three. Although I can’t remember the exact time I do have the moment, the time burned into my psyche—the exact picture. The image I can clearly conjure up as if it were yesterday. My mom wanted her. “Just some Granny time,” she said.  Okay. I guess I could let her go for a little Granny time—even then I was not accustomed to just dropping her off. She hung out with us—one for all and all for one. But I agreed.

I met my mom at the Shopko on Coburg Road. After a little shopping we were back in the parking lot and ready to make the hand off. We strolled to my car to grab her bag and all the other necessities she might need. I handed my mom the bag and she grabbed Isabelle’s hand. “Tell mommy bye bye,” she said. Isabelle looked up at me with her big, brown eyes. “Bye bye mommy.” She kissed me and smiled. That was it. They turned and walked away.

I stood there watching their backs as the heat waves rolled off the hot asphalt. It was like an out-of-body experience. There was my “baby” walking away. Walking away. Away from me. She was her own person. Her own little being. An entity that was really not me. For so long I had been meeting her every need. Breastfeeding her. Bathing her. Soothing her. Caring for her. To me, at some point, we had just kind of morphed into one. She was me and I was her. Who was this little person walking away from me? My brain screamed, “She isn’t you! You are not her! She is separate form you! She is her own person!” I began to cry. Her tiny little legs poked out from under her little jean shorts. Her little arm stretched up to meet the hand of her grandma. Her sweet little face was silhouetted in the sunlight as she tilted her head up to answer a question from Granny that I couldn’t hear. I stood and watched them go. The farther across the parking lot they went the smaller she got. And the farther away from me she went.

They reached Granny’s car. Granny buckled her in and then she got in the car. The engine started and they pulled away.

I got in my car and cried. Cried for the epiphany. Cried for the separation. Cried for the Milestone. And, cried for the beginning of the launching.

This morning we took our now 16 year old to the airport. Another first. Her first trip alone. Her first solo flight. Her first maiden voyage more than a two hour drive away. In contrast to all those years ago she looked so big this time. Not the little girl I remembered.

Her hair was perfectly flat-ironed. She had on jeans and her favorite Birkenstocks. She wore a black velvet choker around her neck and the round gold locket with the crescent moon and diamond star from my great aunt. She went over all the things she would need to do. She was nervous. I know her. But she was able to able to rise to the occasion—to push through the butterflies, the anxiousness, the tense smile and tear-fileed eyes, and keep moving. She had that well-known look of determination on her face this morning. She was ready. She looked in her purse—taking inventory of all its contents. Her new black leather clutch in its place with her passport ID in the window pocket. Her own spending money was in the coin purse in the zippered pocket. The Starbucks gift cards lined up neatly in the credit card holders. Extra cash in an envelope stuffed in with her coin purse. Sunglasses. A book. Her journal. Chapstick. Each section of her dad’s commandeered fisherman’s bag turned purse had a purpose and plan—everything perfectly mapped out and planned. Her vials of make-up and essential oils in a zip lock baggie ready to take out for security. She had gone over her ticket and what to do once she reached her layover in Salt Lake. Her violin was locked and in hand. Who is this woman-child I am watching? And, where is my baby?

It was time.

Hugs, kisses, promises of phone calls once she reached Salt Lake, and then she was off. I watched her go through security. I watched her wave and turn to walk up the stairs to her gate. I watched the plane back away from the tunnel. I watched the plane disappear just pass the rising sun into the clouds.

And, I cried.

This Milestone I knew was a big one. It was the beginning of the leaving. The beginning of the breaking away. The beginning of my baby girl now child-woman really launching into pre-adult. For years I have been saying the teen years are like grasping at smoke. And, I firmly believe it. You see the fire and the smoke, and you reach out to grab it, but it just slips right through your fingers. You can try and grab higher in the air but the smoke there too just slips right through your fingers. You can get your hand closer to the fire and try and grab the smoke there but it’s no use. The smoke still just slips through. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

I just want time to slow down. I am not ready to let the smoke aka my baby girl turned young woman slip through. I am not ready to begin the the journey of letting go. I am not ready to have my child-woman grow up. But ready or not it is happening.

I never thought becoming a mother would alter my life so greatly. I didn’t even know it was possible to love so completely and so much. I didn’t realize how intertwined I would become in my kids, but I am so, so grateful. Grateful to God for giving me these unique, amazing, kind, smart, wonderful people that I get to call my children. Grateful for the time I get to spend with them on a regular basis. Grateful for seeing who they are becoming and where they are going. And, yes, even though reluctantly, I am grateful for the launching. For without the launching they would never have the opportunity to experience the fullness of life and the fullness of living.

So fly away my little bird. Mommy will be home at the nest waiting. Waiting to hear about your adventures. Waiting to hear about your hopes and dreams. Waiting to see what is next on your horizon.  Always, always waiting with open arms ready to welcome you back.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie Onstad July 25, 2017 at 7:35 am

So well put…and absolutely beautiful! Made me cry. Made me smile. Really made me realize that time is fleeting & to be embraced whole-heartedly. ???

Lisa July 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

Thank you Katie! Your girls must be getting big now too! How old are they?

Kathi Atchison July 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Lisa, you write so beautifully and with such feeling. Isabelle is such a warm, loving, kind, fun, young and gorgeous lady to be around. You should be very proud of her and her accomplishments. You are a wonderful Mother, friend and role model for her. You both are so blessed in so many ways. Your relationship is exactly what a Mother/Daughter relationship should be. Filled with so much love….??
Congratulations and best wishes to Isabelle on her solo adventure to Idaho, she will have such a great time.
Lots of prayers and love to all of the family!!????????????

Kathi Atchison July 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm

Hit the question mark key by mistake!!!! Love fat fingers…

Lisa July 25, 2017 at 9:46 pm

Thank you so much Kathi!

Lisa July 25, 2017 at 9:46 pm

Lol. Sounds like something I would do!! :-)

John Bollinger July 26, 2017 at 8:43 am

Great post Lisa! Ours keeping threatening to leave the nest, but haven’t, but plans are now in place for them both to move out of state in the next few months. Trying to push them out of the nest so they can fly on their own has been our goal for the last couple of years, but now that it actually will happen, makes me realize how much I will miss them. Dropping our oldest off at ISU a few years back corresponded with my 50th birthday and surfaced a lot of emotions similar to your experience with Isabelle. You always hear older parents say “enjoy your time with your kids because it goes by fast”, but it is hard to truly understand the feeling until it happens to you. Thanks for sharing. :-)

John Bollinger July 26, 2017 at 8:48 am

I figured it out. I posted a smiley face and it comes out as question marks.
Sorry for all the posts. I figured since you moderate them first you could delete the extra ones.

Lisa July 26, 2017 at 9:00 am

Parenting at this stage of the game is such a paradox. We want them to grow up and launch, yet we also want them close because we love them. Learning to navigate though these days is going to be hard. I already know that. But, I am so excited to watch the unfolding of the young woman Isabelle is becoming, and I am happy to see her move through these Milestones with a greater ease than I anticipated. It is all good.

I will be praying for you and Lisa as the boys transition. Peace to you, my friend.

Faye July 28, 2017 at 2:15 am

What beautiful, honest words, Lisa. I can so relate to this. Thank you for sharing your gift of telling a story with us again.

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