Last week, our daughter, our baby girl, went to prom with her boyfriend, Abram. Even as I write this, I know that it’s metaphysically impossible. After all, she’s only one year old. I still carry her everywhere. In fact, I never put her down. I cuddle her and barely let her mother hold her. Jan dresses her like a little angel.
She can’t have gone to prom because she’s only four. We sit in the kitchen and smell spices from the cabinet and laugh, and I make her ramen noodles on the stove while she licks the flavor packet. I tickle her before bedtime. Jan and I hold her hand while she drifts off to dreams.
She can’t have gone to prom, because she’s six and we play Polly Pockets and Barbies. I give her life lessons through the lives of her dolls. We have imaginery games and bounce around the living room. She looks like a princess in the dresses we buy for her; but it turns out she isn’t always crazy about the things which make her look positively ethereal. She has very specific tastes in clothes. Already.
There’s no way she went to prom because she’s eight, and takes walks with me and holds my hand all the time. She laughs and teases her brothers as they are homeschooled by their mother. And we take her out for sushi, which she has loved since age four or so.
Prom? Impossible. She’s ten and plays in the pool with her friend. She reads voraciously and still listens when I read to her. She argues with her mother about clothes; but only a little. She is adored by us, by brothers, by grandparents. She is the pet of her brothers’ friends, and braids their hair while they sit patiently before her.
It couldn’t be prom already! She’s twelve and tanned and runs on the beach, a free Carolina spirit. She is learning to love music and still cuddles next to Jan and I when she feels tired or sick.
I’ll skip the intervening years to seventeen. They are sensitive times. All I know is she can’t possibly have gone to junior prom! I’m sure that her boyfriend’s parents feel exactly the same way. No way, no how, not our babies!
I am stricken by the fact that she will be a senior next year. I am always gut-punched and bumfuzzled when our children grow up and grow older and move along. I would do it all over again from day one. I would start tomorrow. Heck, I’d start tonight.
But that is not the way of this linear existence of ours. And I will remind every parent, every teary-eyed, nostalgia afflicted mom and dad like me, that this is the way of things and it is just and good.
Consider the alternatives. If our children do not move on it is because they are 1) incapable due to developmental issues. This does not make them less precious or valuable; but every parent whose child is limited wishes they were not. 2) It is because they are afflicted by disease or injury, either physical, mental or emotional. 3) They have left this life.
Moving on, growing up, becoming, those are blessings indeed.
I am proud of my daughter and all that she is, and will become.
But there’s just no way she’s already gone to prom!