This weekend Em will officially become a teenager. She’s counting down the time until she’s 13. As she is excited and giddy for this milestone I’m torn deep at my core. She’s no longer a little girl. She’s a “teenager”. She’s growing up so fast in front of my eyes.
I could go into all the mushy things parents say when their babies grow into this milestone. But I won’t. I could spend forever reflecting on how cute she was as a baby and toddler. But I won’t. Instead, I find myself reflecting on her.
I remember all the sleepless nights because she couldn’t calm herself and we couldn’t figure out why. I remember all the tears at the doctor’s office when she a baby and they had to do more tests (and sometimes the procedures involved) to find out why she was spiking fevers close to 104 or why she was contending with another infection again.
Today I thought how she didn’t really speak. When she did talk, she talked in her own language. It was quiet and garbled and I was a translator for everyone but Matt and Christian. And even then, sometimes they needed to know. When she didn’t want to speak she would squeal.
The sensory issues were overwhelming. To both of us, leading to many frustrated talks. How daddy would want to hug her or calm her when she was losing control and she’d scream he’d be hurting her for just rubbing her arm.
I remember how she struggled to read and comprehend. I remember the tears from reading and from school. How when I was trying to stay in form for the photo studio, she refused to look at the camera and we would both end up in tears.
I can go on and on about all the things that make sense now. I can go on and on as to how far Em has come. I can go on and on as to how I thought I was failing her as a parent and then I stop. I look at her now. She can read. She communicates. Sometimes she uses her voice and sometimes it’s via text/messaging. She now works with me when I take a photo. Not all my photos depend on her looking at the camera but she will look my way, as long as I give her a break in between.
I can see that she is using coping skills we worked hard to teach her. She loves others and is fiercely loyal to her friends. She loves animals and has goals she works hard towards. She is starting to exercise her independence in ways we never thought we’d see from her.
All in all, while I’m sad to see her growing up, I’m also excited and hopeful to see how much further she is going to go. The sky is her limit and she will soar and she will fly. And if she ever falters and falls, I’ll still be here to pick her up and help her regroup and refocus.
Hope. That’s all that kept me going sometimes. That and how innocent and peaceful she looked when she was asleep.