I remember when she looked so tiny up there on that big stage. She was so proud of herself as she sang in the Christmas program at school. As soon as she walked out, she strained to see where her dad & I were sitting, ensuring that her biggest fans were ready and waiting for her performance. We were. She saw us and immediately beamed with excitement as she waved profusely. She was so focused on us that she nearly bumped into the person in front of her as they stopped in position to start the big show. I remember thinking of how beautiful she looked and how very proud I was of my baby girl. She was beautiful, she was mine, and she was growing up.
I remember her graduation from Kindergarten to her first "real" grade, grade one. She had followed the line of graduates onto the stage and, once in her place, stopped to survey the audience, hoping to make eye contact with us. We were both so excited when she saw me and waved. I waved back, knowing that she would relax now that she knew where I was and that she held my utmost attention. She also needed to be sure that the video camera was rolling and that I didn't miss a shot. I had no intention of missing a single thing. She looked so small to me, however, her pride and excitement seemed to make her 5 feet tall. She wore a black construction paper graduation cap complete with tassel and held in her 5 year old hand the diploma that she was so very proud to have earned. She was beautiful ,she was mine, and she was growing up.
Through the years, I attended every school function in which she was participating. I took picture upon picture and beamed with pride as my daughter graced the platform. Whether her role was large or small, I could always be sure that, once on stage, she would scan the audience until she found me and give me that smile that said "I love you, Mom, and I'm so glad that you're here to see me."
When elementary school graduation eventually came, I watched her go up to receive her awards and her diploma. Each time, camera in hand, I would be sure not to miss a thing. I knew that she'd be looking for me. I knew that we would make eye contact and she'd know that I loved her and was so very proud of her. She'd know that she was beautiful, she was mine, and she was growing up.
Tonight I attended her high school Spring Finale. I saw her walk out with her vocal ensemble, her long, black gown fitting beautifully and her hair tied up off her shoulders. The braces would be off any day now and she no longer looked like my little girl but like a young woman. Although our seats were at the other side of the auditorium, I was still able to make eye contact with her and thrilled when I saw her give me a wonderful, warm smile. As always, I was filled with pride and looked forward to hearing her performance.
After her choir sang their songs, I saw her look over at me again with her broad smile and the "I'm so happy that you're here" look on her face. It was then that I realized that her stare was not exactly in my direction but was aimed 5 seats down to where a young man that she now called her boyfriend was sitting. He was the one she glanced at. He was the one she was so happy to see. He was the one who she wanted to be proud of her. Him.
This was the first time ever that I felt an apron string break. A pang of hurt hit my heart and deep within me all I wanted to do was hold her in my arms and remind her that she was beautiful, she was mine, and that she could simply not grow up.
I turned to look at the focus of her attention and I saw the caring in his eyes and the pride in his stature and I realized that, for now, I would share her with him. The reality that I couldn't keep her all to myself, sadly implanting itself in my heart. I didn't realize that I wasn't as ready as I had thought I was to share her with anyone but her father. This young man of hers was a nice boy, a good boy and I knew that I could make room for him in my heart, as she had made room for him in hers. It would be more difficult than I had ever imagined, however, not to be the one she looked for first; not to be the one whose approval and pride she seeked first; not to be... her world.
Certainly, I know that no one will ever truly take the place of her mother in her life. There's a connection, a bond between the two of us that, I believe, will not only be there forever but will also grow and mature as we do. I do, however, have to resign myself to the fact that, no matter how painful, the apron strings will continue to give way as she gets older and more mature. I can only pray that the Lord will give me the strength to let go with grace, the wisdom to let go at the right time, and the faith to know that God is working out the plan that He has for her life.
As time goes on and she continues to change and mature, I will continue to cheer her on, to beam with pride, and to remember that she is beautiful, she is mine, and she is growing up.