Five months ago, my 12-year-old daughter had her first day at high school. It seemed she walked out the door a child and returned a teenager.
It happened so suddenly that it left me breathless, my rosy ideals replaced with the reality of a growing relationship. I spent a term grieving the loss of my little girl (how did she grow up so quickly? Why didn't I hug her more when I had the chance?). I love the new Lizzy - bursting with happiness and friends and independence and new experiences - but it's felt at times like I've been left on the platform while she's boarded the train.
One day earlier this year, I poured my sense of loss into a blog post that I never published, because I didn't want to trespass on my daughter's privacy. But I heard a song on the weekend which expresses it perfectly. It's from ABBA's final album The Visitors, and it's called Slipping throughmy fingers. For copyright reasons, I can't post the lyrics here; but if you get a chance, listen to it.
The song says it all: the feeling of guilt over all the opportunities for time spent together that I let slip by, the inability to truly enter my daughter's world and know what's going on in her mind, the 'absent-minded smile' as she leaves the house each morning, schoolbag in hand.
Of course, this isn't just a time of loss. It's not a time for passive acceptance of any increased distance between us, or decreased influence in her life. It's a time of opportunity: a time for new conversations and ways of relating, as I help my daughter grow into the woman God wants her to be. We're enjoying reading Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre's Girl Talk, and I've been helped by Paul Tripp's Age of Opportunity.
My mother taught me not to dread the teen years, but to welcome the opportunities they bring. I watch my daughter and pray that God will go with her into the places I can't, that he will give her wisdom and courage and love for him, that I won't forget my continuing responsibility to love, teach and train her, and that I'll know when it's time to pursue her and when it's time to let her go.
image is by Markus Bollingmo from flickr