My daughter just turned 14—that means we have four years before college. Where did the time go?

OPINION: My daughter is a semester away from high school which basically means we’re 15 minutes away from college, and I’m not ready.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

By the time anybody reads this, my daughter will be a fully minted 14-year-old. She’s in 8th grade, a semester away from being a fresh(wo)man in high school. It’s insane to think about how fast the time has gone, but more crazy to think about just how fast the time will fly from here on out. One of my wife’s brothers is about to graduate from college, and it feels like we literally just moved him into his freshman dorm yesterday. I still have VIVID recollections of the day — from packing up his car and driving to northern New Jersey from their home in southern New Jersey to putting shelves together in his new space. It all feels so…recent, and at this point it was 3.5 years ago. 

So, to think that I have a child who is a little more than four years away from heading off into the world for college is a bit anxiety-inducing. I mean, now we have to think about college in a real way, not just as some far-off rhetorical adventure. Somebody has to pay for that thing, and one of my daughter’s preferred colleges — Spelman College, which is her mother’s alma mater — isn’t exactly known for tossing money around for scholarships. That might be different now. I suppose I’m going to find out one way or another soon. That means that grades are really about to matter and all that jazz. Look, I realize we still have four years to go as she’s not even in high school yet. But as quickly as time has gone by, high school and then high school graduation season will be right around the corner. 

Everyday life gives the impression of days, at times, moving like molasses. Summer doldrums and winter snowfalls make time feel like it’s standing still, but then you blink and everybody’s talking about New Year’s resolutions, and January speeds on by. Time keeps on slippin’ into the future isn’t just a song lyric from “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band. It’s a real phenomenon, perhaps that’s why the song was so popular. As I watch my children grow up, I feel like the actual day-to-day growth is invisible until I look at my phone’s videos and photos and see a video from three years prior and how much younger my kids were (or in the case of my youngest, how absent he was). My boys speak more and more clearly every day and know things and are exposed to new ideas daily. My daughter is growing into a young woman and dealing with middle school ideas and social orders. And while I know it’s happening, I don’t see it happen every day, if that makes sense. 

It’s just one day. It’s Monday, and the next it’s Sunday. We’ll never get that Tuesday back, but it’s marked its existence on the calendar anyway. That’s how I feel right now. I’m so proud of my daughter and happy for the new adventures her new big ass affords her and where it will take her. I haven’t been in high school in more than 25 years, so the challenges of today are probably substantially different from whatever I went through. And yet, here she goes, a child whose first steps I still remember and for whom I have a ton of pictures where she’s strapped to her car seat eating snacks singing some song little kids sing. 

Because I have four kids I will experience this same thing three more times, and I imagine I will be no less taken aback each time. My daughter, as is often the case, prepares me for what is to come with my other kids as I experience it all for the first time with her. It’s so weird seeing this little human who carries my DNA go off into the world, even with limits at this point, who will eventually go off and only come home for holidays. I will try my best to remember to enjoy all of these moments. It feels like it’s moving so fast, and I didn’t even realize how slow I wanted it to go until now. 

Happy birthday, baby. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

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