Bittersweet 16

My baby hits a milestone birthday.

I started crying in a Barnes & Noble this weekend.

And then again in a Children’s Place.

And then again in my car listening to Taylor Swift. 

And yeah, I’m normally a crier by nature … but this was a lot, even for me. 

But please excuse me because, you see, my baby is about to turn 16. 

At Barnes & Noble, what set me off was seeing an exasperated father with his toddler daughter. He had that look on his face that I know I’ve had on mine plenty of times, the look that clearly said, “I am literally counting the seconds until bedtime.”

I had a brief moment of thinking how glad I was that phase of my life was over … and then, inexplicably, I was crying because I never expected the time between 6:27 p.m. on a random Saturday when my child was 3 and now, when she is days away from 16, to go so very quickly. 

“I only wanted the minutes between 6:27 p.m. and bedtime to go fast,” I scolded the universe. “I didn’t mean I wanted a whole 12.5 years to rush by!”

Next, I started crying at Children’s Place, where I wandered with a sort of vague intention of maybe buying some Christmas pajamas.

They arranged the store with newborn stuff at the front and big kid stuff at the back … and so I had to just keep walking deeper into the store, which made me realize just how far I’ve come in my parenting journey. Then I suddenly remembered when I accidentally bought 18-month pajamas for my oldest when she was 3 months old. (I know this seems like a foolish mistake to make, and yes, they did look too big, but in my defense, they were on a 3-month hanger and I was ridiculously sleep-deprived to the point that I tried to lock my front door with my car key fob more than once.) I tried the pajamas on her when I got home and knew immediately that I’d messed up and I sort of felt like she would never be big enough to fit into them, and yet now both of my kids have long ago outgrown those pajamas. So then I cried. Obviously. 

Finally, Taylor Swift … my oldest and I were singing along to “Fifteen” in the car, a song that came out when she was 1 and I was 27. At 27, I still basically felt 15. It never occurred to me that one day, my baby would be 15 (and then 16) … and so when the lyrics came on that said, “And your mama’s waiting up,” and she squeezed my shoulder, and I realized, “Shit, I’m the mom now … and my baby is not a baby anymore …” well, you guessed it. Tears. 

I didn’t want her to see that I was crying. I didn’t want her to worry or feel guilty.

But she reached over and very gently just wiped my tear away. 

She didn’t ask why I was crying. She somehow knew. 

And she didn’t tell me to cheer up. She just wiped my tear and let me be sad. 

And then “Our Song” came on and we scream-sang the whole song together with thick country accents.

And I was happy again. 

Because my baby is growing up … and in her place, I’m getting a truly wonderful friend. 

Even if she can’t still fit into tiny pajamas. 

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