Letting Go of My Girl


She’s in college, but so what? She’ll always be my baby.

I never meant to be this way. I raised her to be independent.  When she was able to walk, I gave her her own snack cabinet and the lowest shelf in the fridge. We negotiated her curfew on a case-by-case basis. I gave her my brand new car to drive around town, told her not to drink and drive, and didn’t worry. I trusted her to make good choices. I knew she’d make mistakes, but told her I’d be here if she needed me — and I was. Drive 45 minutes to pick her up from the party she’s stuck at? Absolutely. Every time, and cheerfully.

Not so long ago, she was a teenage girl mugging for the camera. Now she's a grownup. Go figure.
Not so long ago, she was a teenage girl mugging for the camera. Now she’s a grownup. Go figure.

Has distance made me clingy?

I hardly talk to my mother. It is a conscious choice, for reasons of my own, for the time being. My daughter’s experience with me is not the same as mine with my mother — or so I think. Am I more like Mom than I realize?  The day my girl was born, I looked at her and saw my profile. “This is my chance to get it right,” I said, then forbade myself to ever think that again.  Also, “I’ll never be lonely again.”

And then, “Don’t be an idiot.”

She can take care of herself.

My girl has demonstrated this many times. Now that she’s gone 350.9 miles away, though, I find myself worrying about her far more than I did when she lived with me. I suppose this is normal; I can’t be her safety net so far away. But I wonder: Is my guilt over withdrawing from my mother causing these anxieties in me? I worry that she’ll shut me out from her life, too. I told her that, and she said we have a connection that can never be broken. I know this, of course, and I also know something else.

Why, when she moved away, did I become anxious?
Why, when she moved away, did I become anxious?

She loves me, but she doesn’t need me.

She is secure in herself in ways I have never been. She needs me to step back now and trust in everything I’ve taught her and let her learn, and, even more, to trust in her. But, even though she’s a 5.5-hour drive away, it’s only an hour by plane. She won’t need me to pick her from that party — she’s not a girl anymore, and knows how to call a cab. But the things an adult daughter needs her mother for, I’m there.  Every time, and cheerfully.


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