All Grown Up, but Always My Little Girl
by Erica Vetsch
I remember, when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, looking down into her little face and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m somebody’s MOTHER.” Then she opened her eyes and looked at me, and I knew we were bound together in one of the tightest bonds known to mankind. We were a part of each other, our lives intertwined.
Heather is a delight. Those bonds of relationship and love still tie us together. She is and always will be my little girl, though she’s not so little now. She stands a couple inches taller than I, and is almost 23 years old.
I’ll be the first to admit, having an adult child is totally new territory for me. It’s as if, for 18-20 years, we played by one set of rules, and then, just like that, everything changed. I always thought, once you reared a child to adulthood, the parenting got easier.
I can hear parents of adult children laughing at my naiveté.
The truth is, the parenting doesn’t get easier, it’s just different.
When Heather graduated from college and moved back home to begin her career as a teacher, we sat down and had a long talk about our expectations and what would be our new status quo. I remember telling her that I had never done this before—parenting a grown up—and I was sure to make mistakes, and I hoped she would bear with me.
You see, I was afraid. Though I knew things would be different, I didn’t want change. I was comfortable with our previous roles. And yet, respecting her maturity, letting go and letting her soar were things that I knew needed to happen. My biggest fear wasn’t that she would make some catastrophic life-altering decision now that the choices were all hers, but that I wouldn’t be necessary to her the way I had always been, that she would make those decisions without my input. It pinched to realize that from now on, the majority of her decisions and life experiences would take place without my involvement.
- She would have employers and students and parents to deal with, and if those people chose to be unkind or unfair, I couldn’t fly to her defense and make them apologize.
- She would have friends that I’ve never met. She attends a Bible study one night a week with people I don’t know, and as much as I would love to visit and eyeball the group, that’s not my place.
- She would travel without me, make purchases without me, see her doctor, her dentist, her banker, her real estate agent, her insurance agent…all without me.
Every time she did something ‘adult’ like applying for her first mortgage, opening an IRA account, traveling out of town to be in a wedding, a little lump would form in my throat and I would feel her slipping away from me.
This independence was something her father and I had hoped and prayed and worked for in our daughter, and yet, now that the time had come for these things to happen, why were they so hard? Why was I so torn between wanting to hold on to her the way she was and seeing her blossom into the woman I know she is meant to be?
Because parenting an adult child called for a level of trust that I hadn’t required until now.
Trust, not just in Heather, but in the plan that got us here. A new level of trust in the One who gave us Heather to rear in the first place. God asked us to bring this child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to train her up in the way she should go, and we did, to the best of our ability. We kept the Gospel before her, gave her as much practical advice on how to be independent and responsible as we knew how, and prayed for and with her about her future. Now we had to take our hands off the wheel and trust in His promises in a whole new way, not in the abstract-someday-in-the-future way, but in the real-life-here-and-now.
I’m grateful that through these changes, my relationship with Heather has gotten stronger. Where I was once the authority, now I’m the friend. Confidant, shopping buddy, sounding board, encourager, I get to be all of these things in a new and fun way. I am invited into her life by her choice, not through obligation. I’m blessed to watch Heather become the godly young woman I glimpsed when I first held her as a newborn.
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
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