I just had a good cry. It was an ugly cry. A gulping, gasping for air, blotchy red face, leaving you with a headache cry. The kind where you don’t even bother to grab the Kleenex – you just let your nose run until you’re faced with the choice of wiping snot on your sleeve or letting it run into your mouth. No matter, the shirt I’m wearing needs to be changed eventually, right?
Hollywood turns 18 today. I’m not sure why I cried so much about this milestone. Perhaps I was mourning the loss of my first baby who screamed her pretty little head off for the first six months of her life. She taught me so much during her first months: how to do things one-handed, so I could hold her all the time, how to know when to step away and let her cry, even if it killed me to do so. And then when she got older and pushed every limit we set, I learned the art of patience. I wasn’t a quick study, I’ll admit, but I did eventually learn how to take a deep breath and count to ten before flying off the handle. And when she went to school and greedily devoured every lesson, she taught me about learning, and how there is so much in this world to explore. As she grew into a teenager I watched her be confident without being cocky, shower generosity on her friends and family, and rely on faith to get through hard times. As my firstborn, she paved the way for me as a mom and gave me my sea legs so that I could feel more confident parenting her brother and sisters. She has filled me with so much. So am I sad because she is no longer a child? That seems silly since the only alternative to growing up isn’t a good one.
Maybe I’m sad because I know she’ll be leaving soon. This coming summer, we’ll pack her things and move her into a dorm room in Wisconsin. She’ll live five hours away from us. I can’t even stand to think of her being so far away, not being here for silly family dinners where we sit around the table laughing until we cry, Packers games, and impromptu shopping trips. This house won’t be the same without her. It’ll be a little dimmer, a little quieter. But I know she’ll be making her own traditions; finding herself and making a life of her own. I am so excited for her to take those steps – to build her own life. College is an amazing experience and I look forward to seeing her soar into adulthood like I know she will. I feel like she was loaned to me, never really mine at all. She’s never really been mine, she’s been her own all along.
I guess there are a lot of reasons that her turning 18 could make me sad. But I’m happy and proud (oh, so proud) as well. She’s such a great kid. Woman? Yeah, I’m not quite ready for that yet. I’ll stick with ‘kid’.
Here is a slide show that I put together to celebrate her 18 years. Happy Birthday, Hollywood. I hope you know how precious you are to your dad and me.