Last weekend, I flew to Los Angeles with my older daughter, Anna, to celebrate my niece’s bat mitzvah. My husband, Alex, and our younger daughter had to stay home, because her school mandates quarantine after travel. It’s yet another unfair dividing line at age 12: Anna, who’s old enough to be vaccinated, had no such restriction.

Typically, a family adventure includes all four of us, or Alex and both girls, since I’m all too happy to stay home. So setting out on a cross-country trip with just Anna was unusual. And exciting. I know my family dynamic changes when we separate siblings, or when only one adult is around, but I didn’t recognize just how special this time together would be.

I arrived at Newark airport carrying an outdated sense of self, that of a frazzled, beleaguered mom traveling alone with a child. But by the time we landed at LAX, it was clear that Anna is now much more helpful than she is exhausting. She took every opportunity to flex her independence, including insisting she was fine to sit separately when the airline couldn’t assign us seats in the same row. In retrospect, I recognize that she probably preferred it.

The revelations kept coming. She felt like a partner in crime, rather than a dependent. We sat together at the ceremony and celebratory dinner, danced into the late evening hours, and posed together in the photo booth. And instead of being annoyed by her teenage tendency to document every moment, I’m glad to have the pictures.

For those of you with young kids, I hope you read this as a subtle warning that childhood disappears quickly and you should savor every second. But I hope it also reads as reassurance. There will come a time when boarding a plane with your child won’t put you in a panic, covered in cold sweat and the sticky remnants of the Fruit Loops you intended to use as bribes along the way.

For those of you with older kids, it’s no revelation that children can grow up to be great company. But was there a moment when you took a step back and recognized that? Or did your awareness grow gradually, like their maturity? Tell me about it. You can always reach me at andrea@time.com.


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