When does 18 years seem like a very short amount of time?

When it’s the day before your daughter leaves for college. That’s when the 18 years spent with your child just doesn’t seem like enough time. I know you never stop being parents no matter how old your children are, however, the time when we can have a direct impact on her life has passed; when it comes to aspects of parenting that we wished we had done differently, there won’t be any more do-overs. She’s moving onto her own life now. How did it happen so fast?

I can’t help but feel sentimental as we help Valerie get packed up for school; Steve and she will leave Monday for Chapman University in Orange County so she can get moved in and oriented before school starts next week.

As part of preparing to say goodbye, we had the opportunity to spend an evening last week with some friends who have known Valerie all her life. All of these people had written a short letter to Valerie after she was born. My friend put all these letters in a book which they gave me at Valerie’s baby shower when she was about a month old.

Reading the notes aloud almost 18 years to the day after they were written was very emotional for me because at the time, Valerie had already been through some traumatic medical situations although only she was only a few weeks old.

You see, Valerie spent the first week of her life in intensive care. There were a variety of factors that had caused her to be transported by ambulance from the hospital in Novato to UCSF Neonatal Intensive Care where she spent the first week of her life: she was premature, had been delivered by me in our bathroom at home, she was missing an arm, and had a Code Blue episode in the first 24 hours in the hospital.

It was a few weeks later when these friends wrote their notes to Valerie. At that point it was too soon in her young life to know if the worst was over or if we were looking at a lifetime of uncertainty about her physical condition. But in the letters that our friends gave us, one thing was clear; although she was only a month old, she had already fought through some tough situations. And her strong spirit touched people.

We were very blessed that physically Valerie grew into a very healthy child who just happened to be missing an arm. And the letters that our friends wrote to Valerie were indeed prophetic. She continued to show her strong spirit in everything she tried, whether it was as an artist, student, or physical challenges like competing in rhythmic gymnastics.

Yes, it’s hard to let go and say goodbye. But I’m very proud of her. And I know that same determination that got her through the first few days of her life will help her with the challenges that lie ahead as she ventures out on her own.