I’m Too Young To Have a Child This Old

It happens often when I mention my 17yo daughter to a stranger or someone I’m just getting to know, they ask in genuine surprise, “Are you old enough to have a senior in high school?!”

I’m never quite sure how to respond to this. I understand they’re meaning to say I look young for my age, but instead of simply being able to say “thank you” to a compliment, I find myself confessing to the personal fact that “well, yeah, we started young…”. (I was 20 when she was born.)

hannah collage

The funny thing is, as ready as I am to set these people straight on my bona fide parenthood of this 17yo child, some days it does rock me to my core: I’m too young to have a child this old! Or…How did this happen? Or…*I* was just a senior in high school!

I think these feelings started in earnest when my daughter began driving in September. She’d been learning for well over a year, so the concept wasn’t entirely new. And I was waiting with great anticipation for the day she could start helping with errands and shuttling the other kids around.

But when she finally got her license, and was free to drive solo? Ugh. The only way I get through the worry is by total denial. I try to avoid watching her drive away, to see her in the driver’s seat. When she or the kids start telling me stories of how she “almost hit” this or “got really scared” about that, I make them stop and quickly change the subject.

I want my baby to be out in the big wide world. I’m excited for the adventures she will have. But I have a hard time considering the pain she will also find and the ways in which I can’t control her environment or protect her from certain experiences. So…honestly…I try to forget myself and send her out with open arms and a blind faith.

Yesterday I put her on a plane by herself for the first time. Well, correction, I put her into a security line, through which she had to pass on her own first. I tried getting an escort pass so I could bring her to her gate, but I was told briskly and without further comment: “She’s an adult.”

An adult? How did I become the parent of an adult?

My daughter flew to Washington DC to meet up with her father, who was working there. Together, they’re on a trip to visit Southern Virginia University, the only college my daughter has ever considered attending. Today she will take a tour, meet with her counselor, audition for the music department. Today, she will be doing some very big things for her future.

I’m so excited for my daughter, and proud. As bewildered as I am about how we got here and how I could possibly be old enough to already be in this┬átransitional┬áplace with my daughter, here we are. And she is ready. And soon enough, I will be, too.