One of my very first columns written for Farm and Dairy centered around the topic of my excited impatience as I awaited the birth of my second baby. That baby girl just turned 21 a couple of days ago.
I have come to realize that parenting is very much like living through the seasons. As the seasons change, so do the needs of the children we have been lucky enough to bring in to this world. If we aren’t smart enough to figure that out, we will miss out on some really great moments.
Caroline was — and still is — a sweet-natured child. I will never forget, though, that she was much younger than most when she first said, “do it myself” with great certainty. Captured on video, I have a clip that still makes us all laugh. Cort was 4 and Caroline was 2 when they were taking turns showing off for the video camera. Cort had finished a lengthy speech, and now it was Caroline’s turn. She wanted to sing me a song she had just learned. Just as she started to sing, “Way up high in a tree, five big apples smiled at me….” when Cort started singing along.
That adorable little girl turned her head, filled with blonde curls, quite quickly toward her big brother and snapped, “Don’t do it wiff me! Do it myself!”
Then she sweetly looked back at the camera and continued on with her cute little song, never missing a beat.
When we got Caroline her first pony, Hope, her dad wanted to lead the Welsh pony with a lead rope while keeping a close eye on Caroline in the saddle. This went on for awhile, with Caroline very quietly pursing her lips, not saying a word. I silently wondered where her smile had gone. As she dismounted near the little stable, I asked her if she was having fun. “Yes. But it would be a whole lot more fun if I could do it all myself,” she answered with a slight shrug of her shoulders.
So, it comes as no surprise that she is blazing her own trails at 21. She is currently working two jobs and going to college, wanting to do it herself. She is insistent that she has it all figured out. She says it all with a smile, letting us know we have raised a strong, proud daughter.
She wants to experience city life, so today she is moving in to an apartment in town with a girlfriend. The two of them are as excited as they can be, and I share that excitement right along with them.
I realize as I look back on the happy years of parenting, there have always been steps toward the day our children could stand completely independent of us. Some of these steps are so tiny we don’t even notice them, while others are major, significant milestones that we celebrate with bittersweet joy.
I remember so many times wishing I could freeze, or at least slow, the incredible pace of our children growing up. As it turns out, each step is fun, exciting, amazing, wonderful to share.
At Caroline’s 21st birthday party, her brother was snapping pictures constantly. I was happy when someone thought to take his camera from him and get a picture of Cort and Caroline together. One of my very favorite photographs of that happy night was of Cort and Caroline with my dear friend Wendy’s son, Dan, on the other side of my daughter. Their joyous faces gives reason to celebrate; the fact that they are supportive friends to one another is all the better.
On the days I feel the pang of loneliness when this house is far too quiet, I remind myself that there are those who never experience this. My friend Wendy left us all too soon after a tragic accident; other parents continue to care for children who are not healthy enough to spread their wings and take flight toward independence.
Life marches on. Time will forever and always bring change. This is as it should be.