that's my daughter and her cousin in the case you care...

Parenting does not come with a manual. I knew that when I went into this business.
I come from a long line of "mothers"... women who have either chosen or falling headlong into the job of nurturing fetuses in their wombs and then giving birth to babies. We then spend the next 18 - 22 years preparing these children, getting them to a place where they are responsible, mature adults, able to care for themselves and are no longer dependent on us.

Its the hardest job I'll ever have.
There have been days when I've hated this job.
Today, I discovered I love what I do.
Today, I discovered I did a good job with at least one of the babies I raised.

My daughter is a sophomore at the University of Illinois. That in itself is a surreal statement for me, as I recall quite vividly the day I found out I was pregnant with her.

She was the precocious one; you know, talking all the time, full of wonder and interest in the world around her. The "second mother" to her younger brother and all the cousins that came after her (she's the eldest grandchild). The trendsetter, the fashionnista, the opinionated, argumentative one who has never had a problem with telling, politely, any adult EXACTLY what she thinks.

She has been emailing me about the apartment she and her best friend will be renting next school year. Apparently, at the University of Illinois and in Champaign in general, you need to take care of the details of such things nearly a year in advance. She's researched a few places, done a couple of walk throughs, had me and a law school buddy go over some leases and has chosen a complex she likes.

She called today.

"Ma, ok, this is what I need for you to do. I need you and Mushu (her best friend) here on the 27th to check this place out and we can decide if this is a good place and if it is, we can sign the lease, ok? Is the 27th good for you?"

"Hello. How are you? Did you get my message the other day?"

"Oh, hey ma."

We both laugh.

After about 5 minutes of her talking and me saying ok in the right places in the discussion, she gives her standard post script:

"I know you hate talking on the phone (I REALLY hate talking on the phone) so let me get off... I have all my homework done so I'm going to read this book I got from the library. Love you, bye."

And, she's gone.

I sit here a moment and process what has just happened.

When I was 19 years old, to even consider having a "Ma, I'm getting an apartment" conversation with my mother was so totally not something I would have thought about, and here I was, completely comfortable with knowing that my child is perfectly capable of handling the responsibility of paying rent and bills and keeping some food in the refrigerator. She is my child....yet, she is NOT me... not at all.

She's always been the independent one. So independent, we rarely saw her senior year in high school. If she wasn't at school, she was at either swim practice or track practice or tennis practice or her parttime job or, according to her boyfriend, sleeping in some movie he'd just paid a lot of money for them to see. Which was ok with us.

My husband and I have always looked at our jobs as parents as merely being the "keepers" of one of God's creations... she doesn't belong to us, we're just the ones who are preparing her to go forth and do HIS will in this world. There was no way of knowing how she'd turn out. All we could do was be who we were, pass on what we know, be the appropriate examples and guide her as she learned to make decisions about what she believes should happen in her life.

I'll admit, last year was hard; she wasn't here. I worried about her eating and wandering in a strange place, sometimes alone. She missed her bus one evening after going to see a French movie as part of an assignment for her French class, and called her father. They talked and laughed while she walked, alone back to her dorm, nearly 2 miles away. When she got "home", he chastised her quietly and then came to bed, a few more grey hairs on his head. Freshman year was hard.

I hoped she'd find new experiences, make new friends, not end up with a wild crowd. I don't know why I worried: the day her grandmother and I took her down for orientation, she immediately hooked up with 5 girls in her academic department and got their email addresses and they've been inseperable ever since. That's MY child...the social diva.

This year, we took her down, she got settled in and she and her roommate shoo'd us away within 2 hours. We drove the 130 miles home in silence. Our baby girl is on her way.

I think we did a good job of it...

Now, if we can just get her brother to put down the video controls and go find a job...