“Looks like we’ve made it
Look how far we’ve come my baby
We might of took the long way
But we knew we’d get there someday
They said, ‘I bet they’ll never make it,’
But just look at us holding on
We’re still together still going strong”
Just over 18 years ago my daughter Georgia was born.
5lbs and 13 ounces. Red peach fuzz and blue eyes and she came into this world screaming. She has been very insistent about her wants and needs ever since. At least for me, the babies that I brought home from the hospital are the same personalities that I have living here in my house. And Georgia has been a spitfire from the start, animated and ready to take on the world.
Georgia is my first. My best foot forward in parenting and the kid I had to figure it all out with. The first illness that scares the crap out of you. The first injury. The first tantrums and kisses and first words. The first everything, I shared with her. And it was just the two of us, so all those early times and moments felt so intimate. Those times were ours.
I was 21 when I got pregnant with Georgia, living in the mountains of Colorado. Georgia’s father thought me having a baby was a bad idea and told me over and over that I was making a mistake that would lead to a life of misery. Then he just stopped talking altogether. He met her, saw her a handful of times, but he’s been completely absent for many, many years now. But those words back then, how adamant he was: “The two of you won’t amount to anything. It’s basically a death sentence for both of you,” is what he said to me during one particularly horrific fight. I will never forget those words. And how he really believed them. And how, sobbing and terrified and young, I could’ve believe him. I could’ve chosen differently. Only really, I knew that the only choice that I could make was to have the baby. She was there already, tiny and growing. And that was that. Making a choice meant doing something. Doing nothing meant allowing things to be as they were. (And I want to clarify here, I am prochoice in terms of what other women do with their bodies and their choices. I don’t feel that my opinion or anyone else’s should change that.) But for me, it wasn’t a choice. Even if everyone thought I was wrong, I was going to have that baby.
The choice I did make was to believe that everything was going to be fine.
And now, in just over a month, she’s going to New York City for college. After a long 18 years. Or in the blink of an eye. I don’t even know which one.
I was pretty okay with her leaving until the other day when we bought her plane ticket, and it suddenly became very, very real. And because she is going to NYC and her orientation is mid-week, and I have a 3-month-old baby and a 4 year old in 4K and a husband who commutes 3 hours a day, (and a photo business and a book I’m promoting), there is no way that I can take her to college. I’m going to have to put her on a plane with some bags and send her off to one of the biggest cities in the world. She’s going to go off on her own, without me. I won’t be there to see her dorm room or subway stop or college. I won’t be there to make her dinner or check in with her or kiss her goodnight. I just won’t be there. And she won’t be here. After all these years, just like that, she’ll be gone.
I know that this is an everyday thing. People send their kids off to college all the time. I even know that it’s a really good thing. She was accepted into one of the most prestigious musical theater schools in the country. And she’s worked so hard for this. And since she spent most her life being raised in poverty by a single mother, she had no vocal training or coaches to help her. She used the things she was taught in her public school choirs and theater shows, and then she worked her little butt off. When she went to her college auditions, it was with music she had bought and taught herself. So really, she made something out of herself. I am so very proud.
I look back at all the years, from the place I’m standing in now, and I realize that Georgia and I grew up together. Obviously I was the adult and she was the kid, but I believe that we are all works in progress. I had a lot of growing to do. And I think that so much of that happened not just in spite of being a young single mother, but because of it. And also because of Georgia being who she is, a little tornado on a mission, determined to take the world on with one bite.
I don’t really believe in taking credit for our children. She isn’t who she is because of me, but at the same time, we influence those around us, in good and bad ways. I do believe that Georgia is determined and successful because she had to work for whatever she got, because I couldn’t just hand her everything. And the absence of a dad in her life probably gave her a sort of nudge to prove that she was in fact worthy. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have some of that, too. Wanting to prove him wrong for what he said so many years back. Wanting to prove to myself that we could become more than some sad statistic together.
“Ain’t nothin’ better
We beat the odds together
I’m glad we didn’t listen
Look at what we would be missin’
They said, “I bet they’ll never make it”
But just look at us holding on
We’re still together still going strong
You’re still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You’re still the one I want for life
You’re still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You’re still the one I kiss good night
You’re still the one”
And the thing is, I know that Georgia is going to be fine. More than fine, in fact. I know that she is going to thrive in the competitiveness at AMDA, she’s going to love living in the city and being among so many like-minded souls. And I love that city so much that I feel a little pang of jealously for her getting to LIVE there. And now we have a great reason to visit. But still, she won’t be here to mess up my living room with all her tap shoes and music, or to play with baby Lincoln, who she loves so much. She won’t be here where I can listen to her sing or have her make me laugh.
I know she’ll come home for few visits. For next summer, hopefully. But our children travel in concentric circles in our lives. At first those circles intertwine, but slowly over time, so slowly that we don’t even notice, the circles inch outward. First, your baby never leaves your arms. Then we set them down for just minutes, or hours. They learn to crawl and then walk. We eventually leave them for the whole day, or overnight. The circles inch farther and farther apart, meeting up less and less until your child suddenly has a life of their own, and then those concentric circles only touch along the edges on occasion. That day is coming so soon.
But she will always be my first. The lessons we learned, both of us, they shaped who we are. She’s taking that with her. The lessons I learned being a mom to her first will be applied to her siblings each day. And I know that she is always going to be with me. That’s how it works with our children. She’ll still be the one I kiss goodnight, only now I’ll do it in my heart.
*lyrics by Faith Hill