My daughter Leah turns 18 today. What?? Wasn’t she just entering the double digits? As she informed me last night when we were celebrating, she can now get tattoos and piercings without my permission (please don’t?), sign contracts on her own, and join the military. Being 18 also means Leah can also marry whenever she pleases, buy cigarettes, work full-time, start a 401K, get a credit card on her own, donate blood, buy a lottery ticket, go to an X-rated movie or strip club, change her name, get sued, and buy a gun. Oy.
I do remember being 18 myself. It’s great to be young but it can also be a nerve-wracking time. Most of your life is still ahead of you but you’re now expected to start making responsible decisions that may impact that life for years to come. I’m grateful that Leah seems far more conscious and present than I ever was at that age, and I look forward to watching her grow and mature and face all the joys and challenges that life has to offer. I’m still the guy who was hiding in the bushes at school when she was in kindergarten to make sure none of the kids were being mean to her, and who cried when she seemed lost or sad, but I hope I’ve learned (at least somewhat) how to let go and let her fly.
It’s an endless struggle as a parent to let your children make their own mistakes, to experience the challenges of life without trying to immediately “fix” everything. But I know it's part of the deal and I’m in awe of the person Leah has become. Her kindness and compassion, her independence and spirit of adventure, her empathy and sense of humor. It seems like the separation between a parent and child starts the minute they are born and continues for the rest of their lives, even though it’s never really complete. As much as I may freak out that Leah is no longer the little girl I once knew, I am thrilled that she is truly her own person. Yes, I recently said to her, “How can I live my life through you if you refuse to do what I want?” but it was with enough awareness that we both laughed and I told her to tweet it (which she did!).
Leah, I remember holding your warm, wriggling body in my arms when you were a baby, I remember carrying you upstairs sleeping when you were four and we were coming home late, I remember sitting on the kitchen floor with you playing with the “magic” salad spinner, watching you play Officer Krupke in your very first show, having “serious” discussions with you sitting on your bed, going to endless movies together, singing our good-night song, laughing our asses off with friends, and hugging each other when we were both feeling sad. There’s no question that December 28, 1994 was one of the best days of my life. Happy 18th Birthday to my beautiful first-born. I love you so, so much!