A couple of months ago I had a very vivid dream. It was like one of those you have after somebody dies, when the person you miss so much is there with you, and you know it isn’t really happening, but you’re so happy to see them and to spend time with them that you don’t want to wake up. Except in my dream, the person I was so happy to see was Demigoddess the Elder, age two. She was little enough to fit in my lap, and I held her there, smelling her head and gratefully stroking her hair.
When you first bring that little newborn home, full of anticipation and new-parent fears, no one dares to tell you that someday that little person will walk out the door and down the street toward her first day of high school, with barely a look over her shoulder as you wave from the front step. No one talks about the ache you’ll feel in your chest when, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, you spy a little girl with hair almost the same, or you hear a certain familiarity in someone else’s child’s laugh at the grocery store.
I always thought that when the Demis grew older, I’d feel a sense of accomplishment. A readiness to let them go out into the world and do what they will with the things I’ve tried to teach them. And I do feel a lot of that. But saying goodbye to those little people hurts a lot more than I expected. I wasn’t prepared for this very real grief.
I don’t wish they had never grown up. I don’t want them to think that I begrudge them their maturity and independence. I’m very proud of the opinionated, creative, busy young people they’ve become. Which is why, when DemiGoddess the Younger complained a few days after the fact that I hadn’t made a bigger fuss about her first day at the senior high school, I said, “Just because people aren’t behaving in ways you expect, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with things in their own way. What you didn’t see is that I spent most of that day trying very hard not to cry.”