I was 46 when my biological clock kicked in. Again. Only this clock wasn’t warning me time was running out to have my first child but to hold on to her.

I used to think the feeling of "racing against time" was experienced only by women longing to become mothers. But now I know there’s another clock marking the passage of time – a clock that goes largely unnoticed until the moment you round the final curve of one phase of motherhood and catch a glimpse of the next. Suddenly you want to call a time out.

Change of course ahead

The next phase of motherhood came clearly into view for me on the first day of my daughter’s senior year of high school.

The first day back to school has always been a special time in our home, prepared for with new school supplies and shoes, photos on the front porch and shared at the end of the day over homemade cookies fresh from the oven.

This time, the day brought to me the realization that it would be the last "first day of school" I would ever share with Stephanie.

With her independent, responsible nature and love for adventure, our eldest of three made it very clear she planned to spread her wings and fly the nest when the time came to head off to university. There would be no living at home, no studying at the local post-secondary institution for her. The closest university she applied to wasn’t within commuting distance. The furthest was overseas.

With the realization that this time next year she’d be away from us, alarm bells started ringing in my heart. Loudly.

You see, once I left home, university-bound for a new city, I never went back. My relationship with my parents changed forever. The bonds continued to be strong, but I changed from being their child, under the shelter of their decisions and watchful eyes, to being my own person, responsible for everything from building a new support network of friends to banking and budgeting.

That September, I suddenly realized I had only one year remaining before our first-born would set off on her own. Was she ready? Was I?

Savouring the small things

A new feeling of urgency occupied me – urgency to cram as much mothering into my daughter as possible during our remaining Stephanie-at-home months.

Short car rides alone, moments working side-by-side in the kitchen and late night chats became opportunities to talk about important things – things we’ve often spoken about before, but things I need to know she knows: You’re special, Stephanie. God has given you wonderful gifts. Use them for His glory. He loves you and so do we. Do your best in everything. We believe in you. Believe in yourself. In relationships, hold out for His best. Life will deliver some blows, but life delivers blows to everyone. In the end, it’s not what happens to you but how you respond that counts. If you can’t have what you want, then want what you have. Be grateful. Give thanks. Give back.

Of course, there have been more practical matters to address. Does she understand finances? I taught her how to make a budget, open a chequing account and write cheques. Will she need a laptop for school? We got her one for her 18th birthday to allow a few months to become familiar with it. Will her messy-room habits cause problems with a roommate? I encouraged her to make more of an effort in consideration of her future roommate’s feelings.

The next phase

Stephanie is a beautiful, accomplished and caring young woman. She is a source of great pride to her father and me and of great delight in our home. Daily life will be very different without her around. Her younger brother and sister will miss her deeply; we all will.

But as I see our next phase of life looming, I find myself full of anticipation for her and for all God has in store.

It’s been a privilege to spend 18 years helping grow and guide her, watching her become the person she is today. They’ve been good years. While it saddens me in some ways to think about doing so, I realize it will also be a privilege to move from the role of daily coach to cheerleader, as this next phase of life unfolds in her life and in mine.

Patricia is a writer and mom who, together with her husband, Doug, have two children.

© 2008 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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