My daughter Ava is turning 14 and like most parents, I’m feeling nostalgic. It’s so easy to get lost in the memories of her big baby grin, how cute she looked in white Osh Kosh baby shoes and a pink-and-white striped dress, or fresh from a bath, snuggly and warm in her fuzzy footy sleepers.
All of these memories are good, but nostalgia is a fairly useless exercise. When we wallow too much in it, we miss what is right in front of us. A 14 year old is a radically different creature from an infant, or the eager 5 year old starting school, or the 10 year old crying about how mean some girls can be.
Ava is, of course, made up of every age she’s ever been, the way all of us are, but the job at hand is to celebrate her 14 year old self instead of pining for what’s now in the past. And there is so much to celebrate.
She was such an easy baby, toddler, young child and older child that many people said to me, “Just you wait until she’s a teenager. If they are easy when they are young, they will be a handful when they are older.” It’s not true yet and I know anything can still happen but all signs point to Ava continuing on this responsible path.
It sounds banal to say how proud I am of her, but the bottom line is that she has always made the whole mothering gig look easy for me. She is her own true self while still being generous to others. She is a fierce feminist with way more courage than I ever had in my teens to speak out about what she believes in.
Helping her reach for her acting dream has been immensely satisfying to me. I feel as if I’m picking up a thread that began to unravel in my early twenties and now Ava is sewing it into something meaningful and worthwhile. Nothing in this life is wasted. It comes back to us, when we least expect it, in a different form. It means so much to watch her find success in this beautiful pursuit of performance art.
As parents, we must continually practice letting go of our beloved children. We do not own them. They are not ours. They have their own lives and dreams and passions. We facilitate, we advise, we stay close for when they need us. But we also practice launching them into their own independence and refusing to be afraid of how it will all turn out.
Mistakes are how we grow, no matter what age and stage we are at. Learning to risk and accepting that failure is tied to success is an important part of the parenting journey. I can’t wait to see where Ava goes next. I love the person she is and is becoming and I’m proud of the relationship we’ve built.
It’s hard to wrap my brain around only having another 4 years where she will be living under our roof for sure. But the goal of parenting is to take a dependent baby and turn them into an independent adult. I feel like we are on our way to seeing this goal be a reality and that is worth celebrating.