I had to buy my daughter real bras a few weeks ago. As I stood in line at the cashier, I felt suddenly unready for this phase of her life.

She is cycling into womanhood as I am cycling out. This girl who has always been so intellectually and emotionally mature, now her body is catching up with her soul. Her development hints at the woman she will become. There will be powerful influences on her as she navigates life. How will I help her, protect her, encourage her, and let her go? The ghost of her childhood is beginning to drift away from her; I clasp at it and come up empty handed. I have to learn to be with who she is now.

I am not ready to let the childish spirit go. She represents what I longed for in my own childhood. She is the joyful realization of a dream. She is the essence of carefree happiness. My own battered soul longs to protect her from all that she will face in life; but I know she would reject my efforts. I am forced to look inward, to anticipate my next cycle and all it will bring. I want to weep for the death of what was, to mourn and thrash at the change that is forced upon me.

Yet, I also celebrate who we might become. The next few years will bring unimagined opportunities for both of us. I cling to the idea that she and I might be friends. I anticipate adventures we might share. I think I might learn a great deal from her as she grows. I want to hold her close enough to share her life without intruding. I want to shield the invisible cord that binds us, make it time and distance proof.

Many of my friends have teenage daughters and as I listen to their stories of angst and indifference, I am steeling myself for that phase. I don’t want to be at best an annoyance, at worst an adversary. I weep at the thought of my girl rejecting me or turning on me in disgust. Can it be prevented? Should it? Do I, in my greater age and wisdom, look at her battle with understanding and remember what it felt like to break through that barrier? How can I help her navigate that path and emerge as a woman without bruising the two of us too painfully?

For now I will hold her close. I will inhale those moments of pure sweetness that are still given. I will solemnly promise to be her greatest champion and ally. I will tearfully help her pack her bags for her journey and then I will let her go.

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