The Sixteen-Year Test

Sixteen years ago today I was waiting to give birth to my first baby.  Today, I’m waiting for that baby to take her first SATs.  The words of my grandmother ring loudly in my ears, reminding me of how fast the time goes.
I always thought that was old people just complaining, whining about missed opportunities and broken promises.  I wondered if they wished they had done life differently, had spent more time pushing their kids in the swing or reading them bedtime stories.  I briefly considered how that would feel, and tucked it away inside that long list of things I would never do as a parent, a list carefully created over years of trying to correct other parents mistakes that ended up in my classroom.
She was probably in her eighties when I started noticing the pain in her voice as she recalled her glory days of pigtails, freshly ironed short pants and dinners around the oval oak dinner table.  Most vestiges of her children were long ago relics of days she cherished, only the occasional tear in her eye as evidence of when she felt truly happy.
Sixteen years ago, I was not thinking of the memories that would be building from the moment she was born; I was thinking of how strong I could be to make it through the labor, and not much else.  I worried about how life would change and could I do all the right mommy moves to make sure she was safe, nourished, and nurtured.  Never did I think this far into the future that she would be walking out of my car and working towards leaving me.
As I sit here, watching car after car pull in, I tense as the clock ticks towards the starting time.  Kids continue to pour in even after they have no hope of admission through the testing door.  I watch them come back, rejected, and notice a mom not willing to take no for an answer.  Her son protests as she resolutely marches him back in, determined to give him another chance.  Minutes later when she returns alone, I see love etched into every fiber of her face; the kind of strength it sometimes takes to be a parent.
Sixteen years ago, I had no idea what it would take to be a parent.  I knew it was something I wanted for my life, not understanding the determination, dedication and sheer will it would take.  I didn’t understand why it would be so hard to watch her ride off on her bike alone, to let go of her hand at the corner of the school building, or let her take over the car steering wheel.  I did not imagine the pain of watching her cry or struggle through friendships that had ended or defeats on the ski hill.  I didn’t comprehend the many, many hours I would lose sleep to hold her tight, rock her gently, or support her through the different phases of growing up.
Sixteen years ago I never imagined the tests my baby would put me through, or how she would help me grow into a better human.  When she walks back to me today I will welcome her with the swirls of my grandmother’s voice running through my head, and realize that what she said really is true:  they do grow up so fast, and the years pass by far too quickly.  I will lock this memory into my mind, knowing all too well that when she finishes this test, another will present itself, challenging me to dig deep and take it on.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Such beautiful words! I can’t even imagine what you are feeling right now. I had a hard enough time when my oldest started middle school this year! The years pass so quickly that all we can do is continue to savor every moment! =)

    1. Thank you, Sara. Middle school is a big step-but isn’t it wonderful to see them grow into themselves? I’ve taught middle school for 21 years-my favorite age!

  2. *sniff sniff* Brought me to tears.. I was thinking of my little boys. My oldest is just is just starting to ride his bike, and I just burst with joy and still step back realizing he is growing up.. Oh I will enjoy these early years, because I KNOW one day I’ll be saying, they grow up SO fast.. Kids are such a joy though. Nothing compares to the emotions we go through as a mother. Did your daughter read this? It is very sweet. 🙂

  3. What a beautiful post! Tears!! I could feel those moments with you… We need to enjoy every single moment we have with our little ones.

  4. How sweet. I read this from my phone first through e-mail. In order to comment I came to my computer and my eyes watered at seeing the pics. Time really does fly. I didn’t get that either when I was little. A summer seemed to last forever. The week before Christmas used to drag by. Now everything goes so fast it is like my life is on fast forward.

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