Leaving childhood behind, a poem for my daughter

Today my daughter, the youngest of our four children, turns 14.

The only girl, she is tough, funny, smart, caring, thoughtful and beautiful. As I do with all my kids, I worry about her. She will be in high school in the fall, and kids are mean. She’s going to be exposed to things and people and feelings there I have to close my mind to or I’ll go crazy.

She needs me less and less for the everyday things like shuttling to and from activities, but the truth is, she’s been leaving me since she learned to walk. And I’ve had 13 years to come to terms with that and practice in letting go with her three brothers. It doesn’t make it easier. Today’s poem by Linda Pastan lets me know I’m not alone in this feeling.

The irony of choosing this poem is that I didn’t teach my daughter to ride a bike. Her brothers did one afternoon while I was in the house busy doing something else. I had taught all her brothers, and they passed on what I showed them. Of course, they were always supposed to replace me, I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon. At the time I felt equally relieved and robbed of one last chance to give a child of mine wings.

Anyway, no matter what they may think, I still have other things to teach her and her brothers — and lots of time, God willing, to do so.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

To A Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving
goodbye.

 

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