Did I Neglect My Younger Daughter? Missing What’s Not Missing

I have a confession to make. For the past few years I’ve been consumed with my older daughter’s college journey. From the emotional turmoil of graduation, the preparations for college, and the adjustment of living a day-to-day life without her for the past two years, it seems I’ve neglected a few things.

Like my younger daughter.

Mom turn focus to younger daughter as older one leaves for college

Not literally, of course. She’s gotten as much attention from being the only child at home as you’d expect a girl whose mom is using her to compensate for her unbalanced feelings to get. But while the neglect isn’t personal, it’s still something that I’ve recently been shocked to realize has, indeed, happened.

When my older daughter was a high school senior my younger daughter was in 7th grade…I think. To be honest, my recollections of that school year for her are hazy, thanks to the potent cocktail of senior year and graduation that knocked me off my feet for about eight months. Not to mention the actual potent cocktails.

But life was hectic. There were applications to submit and letters to wait for and “lasts” to (over)document. There were parties to plan and childhood photos to pour over and feelings to deny. It was a crazy year, and graduation and all things relating to it seemed to suck the life out of me everything else.

[Read Next: Parents’ bucket list for senior year of high school]

Now that I think about it, I don’t actually remember many details of her 8th grade year, either. In my defense, I was a bit preoccupied with things like waiting for texts from the college girl, figuring out a way to ship myself in one of her care packages, falling asleep each night without imagining at least fifty horrible things that could happen to a freshman girl alone at college, and counting down the days until our family of four was together again. The year was a blur of anxiety, anticipation, reluctant acceptance, and a newfound relationship with Melatonin (Chardonnay), and before I knew it, was over.

My recollections of her 9th grade year are clearer. By then my older daughter was a college sophomore and our family had somewhat adjusted to our new normal so I could once again focus on the other aspects of my life—you know, like my other child. The one still at home. The child who had been on the receiving end of my disproportionate physical affection and attention for a solid year despite her presence being—admittedly and regretfully—taken for granted. The one who was suddenly (and without me fully understanding how it happened) a high school freshman.

And although I threw myself into helping her adjust to all the new, high school level anxieties like tougher homework, grades that count, and what to do if you have debilitating cramps during gym, I have to admit that because my head was still consumed by all things relating to college—i.e., my daughter’s major major change, her tough new class schedule, and, of course, worrying about all the horrible things that could happen to a sophomore girl alone at college—I’m not sure I really registered what was happening…until recently.

Her wings—although still a bit damp—are starting to spread, and she’s beginning to take those first wobbly, tentative steps to the edge of the nest, a place where I’ve been foolishly comfortable she’d stay nestled for— well, forever. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.)

While I’ve been feeling all the college feelings and worrying all the college worries, my baby has become a high school sophomore, which is something that I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around. She’s learning to drive, wears shoes with heels (and is able to walk in them), will buy feminine products without blinking, and gets all the lewd jokes on Friends. And even more shocking? Last week she wanted to talk about the c-word—you know (whispers) college. As in, here are a few colleges I think I’d like to look at next year. Wait. What? Next year? Yeah, next year. (And isn’t she adorable to think I’m actually letting her go to college?)

They say life happens when you’re making other plans, and it’s true. I’ve spent the past three years consumed by the passage of time; a consumption that I now realize has been a bit unbalanced. Because while I’ve certainly been involved and present for my younger daughter over the past three years and showered her with her sister’s share of my attention, I have to admit that I’ve sometimes focused more on what I’ve been missing than what was happening right in front of me.

While I’ve been busy being a cliché and fretting over things out of my control and wondering how many cans of mace was considered too many to order before Amazon got suspicious, I’ve been ignoring the significance and passing of the very time I was cursing. The time I still have left before my nest is empty…which is roughly 35 months, in case you were wondering.

Which is plenty of time to go shopping for more heels, to try my best to ignore what I can’t stop, to worry (naturally), and of course, to restock the wine fridge.

Related:

Gifts for Teens and College Kids 

Dear Parent of High School Sophomore

After the Last Child 

About Michelle Newman

Michelle Newman spent 23 years as a stay at home mom to two daughters and most of the past seven writing about them. Even though they’re both now grown and flown, she’s learning that life in an empty nest is still full and the material just keeps coming. She tells stories on her blog,youremyfavoritetoday.com 

Read more posts by Michelle

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