Since becoming a mother, I have worried about my children growing up. In the exhausted sentimentality of a new parent, I wept while folding and putting away the zero to three-month-sized infant clothes my baby daughter had outgrown.
Although she was healthy, smiling and cooing, she would never be the little person that fit in her little pink velour pajama suit again.
A few weeks ago, she turned 15. She has become a kind and creative teenager. On our drives home from her school, she loves to talk about politics and history.
She is taller than I am, and is much more aware of herself than I was at twice her age. My friends with adult children who have gone out into the world on their own tell me how wonderful it is.
"It's natural," they promise. "By the time they are ready to leave, you'll be ready to watch them go."
My daughter reminds me now and then that we only have three summers or three Christmases left until she will go to college. She isn't my little girl anymore, but I will forever be her mother.
In the next few years, I realize, there is so much left for her to learn. I want her to develop the confidence and competence to know how to manage problems when they arise and assess situations to seek solutions.
When I was a teenager, one of my friends got a flat tire on the Buick Skylark that her father had painted lipstick red, thinking it was the shade of a fire engine, when in fact it was a bright pink.
This fuchsia vehicle -- our chariot to many a football game, cotillion and beach party -- with its sagging interior roof upholstery and ragged carpet, was shared by Jennifer and her elder brother.
On the day of the flattened tire, both of our fathers gathered a half dozen teenagers on the side of the road for a group tire-changing demonstration.
They loosened and tightened the lug nuts giving us each our chance at them. We knelt down one-by-one in the street turning the crank on the jack to lift the car.
Our fathers were attempting to prepare us, and I have changed a couple of tires on my own since.
Emergency roadside maintenance is a practical skill. A spirit of resourcefulness and knowing not to panic was the true lesson.
In those pre-cellphone days, we learned that we could temporarily remedy the problem of a flat tire.
My daughter doesn't know how to change a tire. She is just learning how to do her own laundry. I hope that she will continue to acquire the problem-solving skills that will enable her to develop the confidence to take risks and stretch beyond her comfort level.
She's brave, and she is growing up every day. I cherish every moment that she is still home.
And I will trust my friends who assure me that we will both be ready when she leaves. I will love hearing about her adventures and watching her continue to grow.
But for now, I am grateful for today, and for the plucky girl I will pick up from school this afternoon, for her strong opinions and youthful determination. I am glad that she still comes to me with her problems and concerns.
I don't have the answers to give her for all the questions she will pose. But I can encourage her to seek, to wonder and to strive.
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com.