Adulthood snuck up on me

My Tara and me, September 2014
My Tara and me, September 2014

Not my adulthood, of course. Tara turned 18 years old on Sunday. My baby is a legal adult now, and – just like 18-year-olds everywhere – remains part child even though they are now part adult.

It’s a really exciting time for us both. Tara has more fear about it than me. With all my adult years of experience, I can see that Tara is ready to take on the world. My child is not so sure I’m right about that, but I have confidence based in years of watching Tara meet challenges and come out victorious.

The new status doesn’t make me feel old, but does make me nostalgic. I still can’t believe that hollering, impatient, needy infant is already packing bags to leave home. Wow, how did that happen so fast? And only a month ago (wasn’t it only a month?) my index finger was being squeezed by a tiny, damp, chubby hand of someone very small learning to walk. Last week my heart thumped every time that little person ran on unsteady feet, and then the next day…off they went on their bike.

I taught Tara how to cross the street without me. How to watch the lights, and the traffic, and to think of how heavy and dangerous a car can be. And I stood on the sidewalk and held my breath till they arrived safely on the other side. Then with the glee of freedom without the weight of responsibility, Tara watched the lights and the cars, and when it was safe, came hurtling back to me. And I didn’t tell their dad for a long time, about what I had done.

And then we practiced taking the bus to ballet lessons. The #15 went right from our house to the studio. I rode with Tara the first time, telling them what to look for, what to listen for. We rode together a second time, and I waited for my child to give me instructions. We missed the stop. It was ok. And after that, Tara made the busses, the streetcars, the lightrail their own territory, and off they went again. Off to ballet, off to school, off to the mall and to a friend’s house on the other side of the city. Gone far away to return to me much later, always to the relief of my pounding heart. Always putting away the nightmares of the headlines that could read, “Reckless mother teaches child to be independent in the heart of the city.”

I took notes in the Tokyo Narita airport when I went through, and then emailed them to Tara a couple months later, so Tara could make the same trip, alone, to come visit me while I lived in Japan. “Keep your passport on you, and handy, and never never set it down. There are signs in English when you get off the plane. After you pick up your luggage, you’ll have to go through customs, and hand them your forms. Then find the terminal for domestic flights. If you don’t know where to go, follow the other people. If you get scared, ask for help.” I actually cried with relief when my 15-year-old walked into the tiny Hiroshima terminal from the plane.

And look what I’ve done to myself: ensured that this beautiful, strong, smart, brave, amazing used-to-be-child is ready to leave again. We were talking about last week’s college orientation the other night, and about Tara’s move to Corvallis when school starts. Tara says, not in an angry way at all, but matter-of-factly, “I’m sure you’re as sick of living with me as I am sick of living with you.” And you have to understand our relationship to know that it wasn’t a hurtful comment in it’s delivery or receipt: we are two very strong and independent people who respect each other enough to be honest.

Much as I am sad about the separation that will happen this Fall when it’s time to go to University, I see that I have done my job properly.

Tara checking out their Oregon State University dormitory room during orientation last week.
Tara checking out their Oregon State University dormitory room during orientation last week.
There used to be a
There used to be a “No Hunting or Trespassing” sign on a tree by the lake. Tara has it in hand, after replacing it with a different sign.
Yes, this sign suits us much better.
Yes, this sign suits us much better.

30 thoughts on “Adulthood snuck up on me

      1. That was tongue in cheek, Crystal. A bit too cryptic, I’m sure. It is as Pauline says. The bond is there. Mine come back for advice and sustenance still, and offer me the same. You have done well.

  1. I understood the comment exactly – it is part of the releasing process for both mother and daughter. As Derrick said, it is a job never quite finished. One of mine is temporarily back home again 🙂 You did a good job Crystal! xoxo

    1. I am glad I reflected the conversation well enough. Out of context, it could sound like a snotty thing for a kid to say to their mom. But you are right: it’s part of a healthy process for us. We are both ready to separate, though we love each other so much.

      What are you guys talking about “never finished?” You mean, never ever? I’m only joking a little. I hadn’t really thought of that – about this job continuing my whole life. Wow.

    1. Thank you so much for saying the job is well done!! The testing will come for years, I am sure. I need to know the right times to help, or hug, and the right times to say, “Well, that is hard. Good luck figuring it out.” Even after 18 years, my first instinct is to swoop in and take care of my baby.

    1. You are right. I have so many questions about what this person will end up doing in life. Where will the big catastrophes show up? Where will the successes be celebrated? It is exciting for me.

  2. Congratulations!!!! For both of you, Tara for being so smart and you for being such a good mother. The shots are good in special the first.

  3. I’ve been savoring this post. Loved the photo of the two of you and loved Tara’s sign for the woods. 🙂 I have a niece who had a meltdown when her 22 year old engaged, soon to be married daughter moved an hour and 15 minutes away. I told her that her job had been to give her child a good foundation and then give her wings. It’s like the butterfly coming out of the cocoon. Painful to experience but so worth the beauty in the end of it. You have given Tara a strong foundation. Just being with her for that brief time said it all. Now you both get wings and can flit around each other dancing in the wind. Yes, she will continue to come to you as she grows but you are the kind of mom that keeps the air moving under her wings, not the kind that pins them to the wall. Bravo to both of you.

    1. Your encouragement means a lot to me, Marlene. Just like in this post I relied on my experience, which is greater than Tara’s, I look to people I respect and admire, like you, with more experience than me. If you have faith in us, then I am even more reassured.

      The drive to Corvallis is 3 1/2 hours from here. That’s far enough away that we won’t be making the trip often. But it’s close enough that we can see each other if we need to. I am really excited to watch what Tara ends up doing in life. I’m sure it will surprise and impress me.

      1. I’m sure she will impress you at the very least. We so enjoyed spending time with her and I’m sure the rest of the world will soon feel the same way. She is a treasure.

  4. Lovely post and you are exactly right! It is our job to raise them up and send them off as healthy, compassionate, hardworking, people. You’ve done well, Mom! Many pats on the back.
    I love that photo of the two of you, by the way.
    (love the fairy crossing sign, too)

    1. Thank you, and thank you! I love that photo too. We got so many great ones out of that session. I have to give a lot of credit to the fabulous photographer, and she gives a lot of credit to Tara and I being easy with her and with each other during the photos.

      It’s a hard thing to do: raise them so that they are ready to leave us. I miss the toddler snuggles. I miss the kid who just accepted what I said and didn’t get in the mood to contradict nearly every statement out of my mouth. I miss the simplicity of a child, but I am crazy about the complex adult I see now. It was a crazy ride, and I’m so glad we went on it!

  5. Hey Crystal.. Long time we have not really spoken (ofcourse through our comments on the blog). Today I actually thought about you, and came on to the blog. And I am so delighted to read this one. I was thinking how my mom must have felt when I turned 18- free or worried 🙂 Your daughter looks lovely. I think she has got your smile.

    And you definitely do not look like a mother of 18year old, you look dazling and glowing.

    Load of Love, looking forward to hear from you.


    1. Thank you so much for those compliments, my friend! I don’t feel like the mother of an 18-year old. It has been a fun adventure though, despite the challenges of parenting.

      You know, we must be on the same wavelength, because I have been missing you too. I saved a recent blog post of yours on my desktop to remind myself to go visit. I need to keep up with my friends, even those I have never met. 😉

      I look forward to seeing what new adventures you two have been off to.

      1. We were definitely on the same wavelength, and I am glad we missed each other. Sometimes you do make good friends without meeting each other 🙂 I will keep you updated with my list time to time if I do not see you around.

        Much Love

  6. I’m with you on this one. I can’t believe my baby has a beard (:o), and has made his first solo expedition – to Mexico City of all places! I was nearly sick with worry for months while we waited for “launch” day. I couldn’t relax until I got the email saying he had successfully met and settled in with his host family (who have turned out to be lovely). I hope Tara has wonderful adventures like my son is having. 🙂

    1. Yes, that would be scary. Tara is dying to continue travelling, and I know it’s going to be very hard when I’m not there to make sure things are ok. I’ll have to reach out to you for solidarity when it happens.

      1. It’s scary but he keeps in touch which makes it easier. I’d hate it if he never emailed, and I love seeing all the photos. Do you think Tara would remember to keep in touch with you to stop you from freaking out!? It must be harder with a girl; I would worry even more about my daughter traveling than my son I think. Thankfully I’ve got a few more years before that becomes a problem. Do you think Tara would consider traveling with a friend instead of doing it alone?

  7. Your first extremely wonderful photo called to me from under your recent post and I had to click and read this. How beautifully it comes to a close. Fairies cross and depart and then you are reunited. 🙂 This was five years ago. I wonder how you feel about it all now.

    1. Thank you my friend! I have had to learn more lessons in the intervening years, and they are good lessons. You know how I said that I am confident but Tara not so confident? Well, I stand by that. Tara is 22 now, and still has low confidence. This makes them desire a full grasp of any situation before any decisions or forward movement, but that is an inefficient way (in my opinion) to live life. For example, Tara is still in school, taking longer than I ever would have guessed, to get a degree. My approach is, “Just jump in! Take all the classes! You’ll be fine! You’re smart and resourceful.” Tara’s approach is to think about it for a term, interview friends, email the professor, think about it some more, take the class, drop out two weeks later and think some more, then take the class the next term, and FINALLY complete it. This strategy makes me CRAZY. But my assessment of Tara’s ability is sky-high. Tara can and does complete with spectacular ease, grace, and competence, most things they try. If only they could see their own abilities in a clear light. Tara was too scared to learn to drive for five years, resisted and resisted my loud complaints, and finally, one day decided to get a driver’s license and learn to drive. Within ONE WEEK had studied the book, called around Portland to find an office that had an open slot for test-taking, took the test and passed, got the license, spent a weekend with me and seeing their new (used and sorta beat up) manual transmission car for the very first time, spent two days with me on our country roads learning how to drive and on day three DROVE that car alone back to school in Corvallis. I mean. The kid is amazingly competent and capable. I’m still convinced I did good. The biggest lesson (as usual right?) is for me: the world doesn’t spin on my own timeline or by my rules. Chill out Trulove, and ride the wave.

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