Twenty years ago, I dropped my oldest daughter, Mary, off with the sitter when she was six weeks old. After six precious weeks of being with her, it was hard to hand her off to someone else for her care. I cried on my way to work thinking of the future goodbyes. This was the first of many separations and I was crying for the day in which she would take the first step into adulthood.
Two weeks ago she celebrated her 20th birthday and I look back at the time between the first separation at six weeks old, and the life she lives now. Two days after she was born, my mother and I took her to the pediatrician to check her for jaundice and when the nurse called out for “Mary Windham”, my mother and I both looked around and then realized that she was referring to my daughter. After carrying her for nine months, I thought of her as an autonomous part of me, but when the nurse called her name, it became real….she is new member of humanity.
At five days old we made a trip K-Mart and on the way to the store and she had a bowel movement. When I was changing her diaper in the back seat of the car she ended up with fecal matter all over her face and I starting crying and telling my husband, “I can’t do this”. Of course, I ended up “doing it”…that is being a mother, but there were many times in which I wondered “How can I do this?” “How can I handle the terrible twos, challenging tweens and uncertain teens?”
As a three year old she would cause me panic when she played “hide away” during our trips to the department store, and then there was the challenge, sixteen years later, of her traveling cross country via planes, trains and automobiles…and by that I mean hitchhiking, training hopping and one plane flight home.
After seeing much of the country she has settled into the first steps of adulthood by working, attending college, and building strong friendships. A parent can never breathe a sigh of relief saying “we did it” , that is successfully raised a good human being, but when significant milestones are met we can reflect with pride and joy to see what once was a helpless newborn infant make her way in the world with her own mistakes, challenges, joys and life lessons.