“I’m not a little girl anymore, daddy. I’m a big girl, and I’m getting bigger every day.” -Alexa (my daughter)
When I look at her I still see that little girl who was placed in my arms a little over eight years ago in the hospital. She was so tiny then, like a baby doll, with lungs on her to raise the dead. But she was so sweet, with this little smile that reminded me of her mother from the second she first smiled at me. She was wrapped up in these huge blankets that completely dwarfed her by comparison, and she could fit comfortably in one of my arms. But as she herself so aptly put it yesterday, she’s not that little girl anymore.
I saw it in stark contrast this morning when I went to her school to watch her participate in what they call Unity Day, a coming together of the entire elementary school to celebrate togetherness, to engage in contests aimed at helping the kids and faculty work as one and increase the sense of, well, unity. And from what I saw it was a success. When I arrived Alexa was working hard in a group of kids to figure out how best to solve a possible problem. You should have seen her leading the discussion but listening to others’ opinions too.
She was so intent on her group that she didn’t even see me for a few minutes, so I got to do something I rarely get the chance to do: watch her interact with her friends without her being on “stage” for me. It was at the same time both wonderful and sad to see. I could see, for maybe the first time, this girl at 10, at 12, at 18, and on into adulthood, existing independently of her mother and me. It was wonderful because that’s what I want for her, to grow into herself, to be an independent thinker, to have her own life and dreams, but she’ll always be my dream too.
“This is why we have to enjoy these moments. You do realize in just ten more years she will be going to college.” -Heidi (my wife)
As parents, how can we separate those two wishes? I mean, Alexa has been so dependent on us for her entire life so far, but she’s starting to make decisions for herself, and it only gets harder from here. But Heidi is right. In ten short years she will be going to college. She will be forging her own path, and the nature of our relationship will change, in fact it’s already begun. As she becomes more independent it automatically means she will be less dependent on us. Yes, we do indeed have to enjoy these moments, because none of them is promised to us, and before we know it they will be gone, and will only live on in memories and in photographs.
But as our relationship changes, I begin to see more of that individual I have always wanted her to be, which is magical in its own right. So even though my little girl is gone, I’m getting to know this big girl, and she’s pretty cool too. She just can’t fit in one of my arms anymore, and that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be.