That Moment You Realize Your Daughter Is Growing Up

That Moment You Realize Your Daughter Is Growing Up

This morning, I had one of those classic Mom Moments.

You know the ones I mean? You look at your child, realize how grown up they’re getting, and have a sudden, inexplicable urge to cry.

Only I couldn’t cry. I was driving on an unfamiliar winding road in the woods. If I started crying, my car would probably end up wrapped around a tree.

Photo by Jonathan Larson via Unsplash


Had I really just dropped my daughter off at summer camp? How had she gotten so old? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was finger painting with pureed squash on her high chair tray? How did six years go so fast?

No, not six. Seven. She’s turning seven, next month.

My baby’s going to first grade. She’s going to be in school all day.

At once, the tears started to flow. I probably should have just pulled over.

Because it had just hit me: I only had a few more weeks with her. And then, she would climb into that school van, and I wouldn’t see her for eight whole hours.

Five days a week. For the next twelve years.

Seven years ago, I couldn’t wait for this stage. You know how everyone says, “Don’t wish it away” and “it goes so fast”? Well, when your firstborn has colic and nothing you’ve tried is helping, and you’re frustrated and sleep-deprived and desperate—honestly, when you’re living in that reality, first grade can’t come soon enough.

That was my experience of motherhood, in those early years.

It was messy. It was awful. And I couldn’t wait for her to grow up.

Photo by Antoni Shkraba via Pexels


Maybe that’s you right now. Pacing the halls day and night with your inconsolable baby, wondering why in the world you chose this path in life. People keep telling you “it’s just a stage” and “it won’t last forever.” But what you really want to know is: How do I survive?

I honestly don’t know. When a screaming baby is your reality, it’s hard to imagine things ever getting better.

And yet, something amazing happens. After you miraculously survive that first sleepless year of terror, the colicky baby becomes a high needs toddler, and then a strong-willed preschooler who refuses to use the potty. Every day is a battle for your sanity. You laugh when people tell you you’ll miss these years.
(Yeah, right…) But then, half-day kindergarten comes, and she goes skipping off to school with bows in her hair and a dimpled smile. Teachers tell you what a joy she is. They praise her creativity and vocabulary. The days are getting calmer, the meltdowns are fewer, and you can finally breathe.

And then, the day comes. First grade. Just around the corner.

I look at my daughter—this vibrant girl full of spirit and imagination—and marvel at how far we’ve come in seven years.

And all of a sudden, I’m not ready.

I’m not saying I want to turn back the clock. Not in a million years.

But I wish I could pause time right now, and hold her just a little bit longer.

Somehow, at some point along the rocky way, we had bonded.

Maybe it was when we listened to The Magician’s Nephew together. Maybe it was when we built that two-story castle out of cardboard. Maybe it was when I braided her hair like Elsa, or all those times I sang her to sleep.

I think it was all of those things. And more, so much more.

And now, my baby girl is starting first grade.

And I am going to miss her.


Jennifer Gilmartin

Jennifer is a freelance writer and musician living in Pennsylvania. Once an aspiring Latin teacher, she is now a stay-at-home mama of two children, and is blessed with a husband who can fix just about anything she breaks. Jennifer leads Jr. High Sunday School with her mom and loves attending musicals, giving homemade gifts, and sharing tea with good friends on the back porch.

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