He leaned over to his barely a teenage daughter, pulled her close, and kissed her on the cheek, then took off his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes.
I don’t know him, but in that moment, I did.
We were at high school freshman orientation, getting our eighth graders ready for this transition. And I didn’t realize ahead of time that I was the one who wasn’t ready. The years came rushing back to me and bowled me over on the short drive to his soon-to-be-new-school. I felt tears prickling the corners of my eyes as I searched for a parking space. “Hold it together” I told myself, hustling the kids out of the car and joining the crowd of parents, all looking more shell-shocked than their children.
If dog years means “one year that feels like seven,” what do we call parenting years? Because there is something about being a parent that makes this thing we call time alternate between frozen and the fastest fast forward option on your DVR. There are moments- random, tiny, everyday moments- loose teeth, bruises and cuts, tears and time outs- that happened years ago but feel like yesterday. Like the time I clicked you into your tiny car seat just as you looked down to watch me and I pinched your lip in the seatbelt and made you bleed. And the first time you sat in the baby swing at the park, squealing with delight. I remember how bad I was (am?) at cutting nails and how I made you cry for daddy. I can recall every second of the morning before the first day pre-school- the roller coaster of ecstatic to excited to happy to nervous to really really nervous to wait-they-have-food-here-bye-mom! And now I look at these high school students, excited to greet you and welcome you to their world instead of mine and they look like young men and women and I can’t believe that will be you in a few short years.
I’m not ready…what if I did it wrong? What if I messed you up? What if I did too much/too little/simultaneously too much and too little for you and have ruined your future because of it? Can I rewind and do it again just in case, just to be sure? And this time, don’t make the time fly by in parenting years.
Give me a few dog years.