She’s Leaving Home

Feb 9, 2014


Just a short while ago my 17-year-old daughter left to go to Greenwich Village for a Princess Valentine’s Day party with a group of friends, fellow seniors from her high school. The rule was to wear a dress in pink or purple—later stretched to allow red—and bring a homemade treat. Well, my girl still doesn’t know where the baking pans are kept, so she bought a big (expensive) box of chocolates at Max Brenner’s. She goes there so often it’s almost like her second home, so I guess she landed somewhere in the vicinity of the hostess’s request.  When she left, I didn’t walk her to the door.  I didn’t stand in the 27-degree cold and watch her go down the street until I couldn’t see the top of her head bopping along anymore. Which is what I always do when she leaves the house. And I’m sitting here feeling guilty and anxious for missing the moment, for tempting fate by omitting the ritual.  Will something bad happen because I didn’t watch over her to the very last second? So I’m asking myself why didn’t I?  Why did I stay seated and just call out goodbye to her instead? Maybe it’s because part of me is hurt that she’s going—while the old lady stays home; or because part of me acknowledges that she’s a separate, independent, almost-grown-up person I can’t hold on to; or because part of me is sad that she’s really leaving—if all goes well—for college in the fall, and I need to get used to it. I know it’s a good thing, a milestone (millstone?) that parents have dealt with for ages, but I’m not sure how I’ll manage. I’ve been raising kids for over 30 years—half my life. When my oldest son left for college, my younger son and daughter were home. When my younger son left, my daughter was there. When she leaves . . . well, me and the old man will have to figure it out. It will be harder on me—and my husband acknowledges this—because, well, she’s my girl.  The shopping companion, the one to watch Switched at Birth with, the one whose every friend, teacher, homework assignment, wardrobe choice, genuine worry and irritating kvetch I know about. Will she need me next year—her first time away from home? Of course. But she’ll be there—wherever there is—and I’ll still be here. Feeling a lot older than I used to. And she’ll feel older, too. All the girls will. Maybe that’s why today’s party is trying to recreate a childhood experience. Of the excitement of wearing a pretty party dress, the anticipation of eating lots of sweets, and, most of all, of the happiness and ease of spending time with your best girl friends.  I hope she has a wonderful time. That she will do many other wonderful things in her life. And I hope she will keep wanting to tell me all about it.