My last child turned 18 on December 1st.
The days leading up to her celebration threw me into moments of nostalgia and memory, memories that I theatrically regaled her with every afternoon that I picked her up. Right up to the day before her big day and she stopped me when I was going to tell her, yet again, about the day of her birth.
"Mama, can you save that one for tomorrow?"
At first I was taken aback.
It is my one and only time of year for all my children to tell the story of how they came to enter the world on the day they entered.
But this one wanted me to save it.
As I drove to the store for an item for her weekend gathering of friends, I thought about what she was and was not saying.
Maybe she wanted me to cherish it more, to really ponder what happened over the past eighteen years.
Maybe she was tired of hearing about it, complete with tales of her almost exact-to-the-minute gender-unknown birthday twin born next door at the same hospital by the same doctor.
Maybe it was time for me to recognize something.
It was her dawning on a new identity, that of newly minted adult (well, in Western America, but in this Afrodiasporan America, she is still in our home, on our dime, and therefore, an emerging adult until she hits twenty-one like her big sister, but I digress...) and she wanted me to put on a new identity as well, that as mom of all adult children.
She was telling me not only did I understand the assignment, but that I completed it.
I've reached that time when I was a much younger mom in my twenties, long before social media and computers made things move much faster, when eighteen seemed forever. I thought I would never be finished with rising at 5am to get me and two sons ready for the 6am bus to the train to get them dropped off at daycare to turn around and take the train to my job that I had to be at by 8:30am, so thoroughly exhausted before I even plucked the keyboard. I thought the job of raising kids would never end.
My life took many twists and turns from the days of being a young, twenty-something divorced professional in a Midwestern big city without family and two souls I had to be responsible for.
When I look at my children now, I can't imagine them having to have all these grown up responsibilities and thee weight of the world on their shoulders before they were even twenty-eight.
So, in sitting in my car at the light, thinking about what my youngest, wise daughter was telling me, I smiled.
My assignment was complete.
I made it.
They made it.
My children are alive and well, thriving, I even have two grandsons.
I'm not old and not ancient and not even finished yet.
I'm just beginning.
This identity gets to shift, to nuance, to become something different.
Now, my last one is still a senior in high school, so I'm not washing my hands of her. She still needs our presence and guidance through the college acceptance process. We still pay her bills and unlike me at eighteen, she is still living at home, secure and protected. So, we are still parenting.
But parenting looks different now.
They are all equipped and she was letting me know that. Perhaps has been for a year now, every since she started driving herself to afternoon lessons and hanging out. She is not afraid of the winding Connecticut roads in this still-very-new state to us. She said she liked going to the store and running her own errands.
She felt empowered.
And that is what I wanted for each of them.
To be confident and assured and secure and empowered.
I can never guarantee for any of them that they will not encounter obstacles, the oldest two, both in their early thirties, have attested to that. But I guaranteed them that I would center their lives while I was raising and teaching and guiding them, that I would give them my all so they could be all they were imagined to be.
My youngest was subtly letting me know that she needed me but didn't need me, that she understood all the teaches and watched her older siblings. She absorbed all that was happening around her.
And she was ok.
I looked at this young woman and marveled at her.
I wanted to reach through time to hold her little hand and hear her bubbly laughter and watch that twinkle in her eye and freeze frame it so that I could hold it in my heart for a moment longer.
But she was telling me something a bit different.
She was telling me that she was ready. That I can dream a bit differently now. I can be a new me.
My youngest daughter turned eighteen on the first.
And I became the mom of adults.
Five adults are alive and thriving and well.
So I sat at the next light as she looked over at me and smiled.
It was as if she was silently congratulating me.
I completed my assignment.
And now it is my time to dream differently for the next lifetime.