Last night, I was laying on B's pillow pet on her bed, snuggled under a blanket as we talked. She loves these evening chats. I suspect that's partly the result of being the middle child - always acutely aware of having to share her parents, but desiring real relationship with each of us. We were talking about school, how her day had gone and the book she was reading when, for no apparent reason, B said: "I don't want to go to college." A conversation ensued:
Me: "Oh, honey. That's years away."
B: "But I don't want to go. My friends will make fun of me for having stuffed animals. And... (her eyes fill with tears) You won't be there."
Me: "Boo, that's not for years. You're only nine."
B (a tear trickles down her cheek): "But I don't want to go. I'll miss you."
Me (seeing that the line of reasoning that this was nearly a decade away was getting me nowhere): "Well, you can go to college and live at home."
B (shocked, the tears stop as she tries to figure this out): "I can? How?"
Me: "You could go to Belmont during the day and take your classes and then come home and sleep here."
B (visibly relieved): "Oh. Well, that's what I'm going to do."
Me: "OK, honey. Let's say your prayer."
I don't for one second believe this fiercely independent child of mine will choose to live at home while she goes to college. I don't think she'll be torn about her decision to leave home when the time arrives. And I don't think she'll be taking her stuffed animals with her.
What I do know is this: parenting tween and teenage daughters is difficult. Most days, I feel like I've suddenly been put in the deep end when all I know how to do is dog paddle - or tread water. I fear that I mess it up as often as I get it right. So I want to remember last night. I want to remember laying cuddled on my daughters bed (a bed that is so filled with stuffed animals and blankets that I have called it her nest) and hearing her say that she doesn't want to leave our home to go away to college. I want to remember, in the days when I am once again alone with the man I love, that my daughter loved being here. That she loved me. That her eyes filled with tears at the thought of going away.
She'll still go. She should go. That is, after all, what we're raising them to do. To go. And be who they were made to me. To be gloriously, uniquely themselves. And I have no doubt I will love the B she turns in to. This daughter (each of my daughters, in fact) is so full of surprises that when she asks J and I what job we think she might have as an adult, I find it hard to choose one from the dozens of possibilities that pop into my mind. There are so many things she could one day be.
But I'd like to remember her like she is today. Today she is a girl who has given up fighting with her sisters for Lent. She is a girl who teaches her mom how to draw trees and creates elaborate etch-a-sketch creations. She is a girl who hates to take showers, but loads the dishwasher without complaint. She is a girl who loves stuffed animals - and loves me.