At ground level

A column about LIFE

As my daughter turns 16, is it time to let go? – Part 1

I wrote the column below 11 years ago, when my oldest daughter turned 16 years old and received her first car. I think it works well as a prelude to my next blog post:

My oldest daughter will turn 16 years old in a couple of days. After much resistance on my part, I finally relented and we bought her a used compact car. My husband tells me, “It’s the American way.” I never had the experience in my country. Most teen-agers don’t get a car when they turn 16 in the Philippines.

I took a survey among my friends and neighbors, and everyone told me they did, indeed, get a car when they turned 16. It may not have been a new car, but it had wheels and it took them places. Everyone said their first car was the most memorable. My husband still reminisces about the days when he drove his ’62 Ford Fairlane. “It was a very reliable car and got me through a lot of hard times!” he still says with nostalgia.

Another friend fondly remembered his Ford Tempo. Still another recalled the beat up station wagon which she hated, until she realized she could pile all her friends into her car.

Many mothers have told me I’ll actually be glad when Rina turns 16 and can drive, because I will now have an errand girl and life will be simpler – no more rides here and there. In fact, she will be able to give her siblings rides and I will be “free.” I’m not sure I like the sound of that, because this also means SHE will be free. Maybe this is what I am actually resisting – the coming of age, entering another chapter, this “rite of passage.”

It’s difficult for a parent to let go, especially for the first time. It seems like just yesterday when she was three and she and I were at the Hy-Vee Food Store. We had passed the cereal aisle, and with a twinkle in her eye, in a loud voice for all the world to hear, she said, “You’re going to get me cereal, right Mommy? Not dog food!”

Then, when she was five, there was the case of the traveling caterpillar. I had noticed her socks and underwear stashed in one corner of her room. “What’s all your stuff doing there?” I asked her. She mumbled something about “making a place for my caterpillar to sleep in.”

Then she explained, “When I rode my bike the other day, you know, I found this caterpillar on the road, so I took it home for a pet. Well, Mommy, I had to keep my caterpillar warm. Only it died.”

Trying to appear calm, I asked, “Where is it now?”

“I put it in my wastebasket, but I think it went for a walk,” she answered.

Inside the trash can I found some papers and grass that apparently came with this caterpillar; but, no caterpillar. I never did find the caterpillar in the house.

That crisis seems so trivial now compared to what’s ahead of me, for really, parents never stop worrying about their children. People are right when they advise others with young children to “enjoy that time,” because the worries do get bigger. Potty training is a cinch compared to worrying whether my daughter will get into an accident tomorrow. But as my other half has said, “She will have to drive sooner or later, and whether she’s 16, 18 or 21, you will still worry.”

Her Barbie dolls are packed away; the boom box is playing loud music I cannot understand; the tap dance shoes have been replaced with a tennis racket and a telephone; and teen-age boys and girls now frequent our home. I am no longer “Mommy”; I am now “Mom,” or called “Mother!” in that very impatient tone. It brings back memories of me and Mom, and those oh, so very turbulent teen-age years!

I know from my own experience that this, too, shall pass, but I tend to agree with my husband. After he bought Rina the car and headed for the airport on a business trip, he muttered, “Oh, how I wish she was three again and we were still going to her grandma’s farm for eggs on Saturday morning!”

My sentiments exactly!

May 13, 2011 - Posted by | Children, Life, Parenting |

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