She will be 18 in exactly in two weeks and this is her senior year. I used her love of coffee as leverage to get a quick shot of her with her siblings on the first official day of school. 

I bite my lip as she drives off and I’m left with just a photo — one right next to the last photo I took from the night before where Cheyenne is holding her newest cousin Tara Rose. Tara is only 6 months old and it hits me, the biggest challenge of my life is coming to a close. 18 years of raising this little girl with dark curls and hazel eyes.  

I look at Tara in her arms and I remember being 17 and pregnant and walking across the stage at my high school graduation. 

I remember feeling terrified of the detour to motherhood. 

Then I think of the day she came into the world. And sorts of memories follow. Each milestone for her was a moment of triumph for me. 

Her first steps.

The first day of school. 

The diagnosis of her being on the spectrum.

The day, weeks, and months following as she learned to embrace high functioning autism as a part of her life.

The first dance.

The first boyfriend.

Her first job as a barista. 

Her first prom.

And now she’s talking non-stop about getting her tattoo, a first I didn’t really expect. 🙂

The years ticked-tocked by and now I’m on the threshold of her senior year. I can feel the days coming to a close as I stare down the barrel of this school year.

Photography by my sweet friend, Catrina Gray of Simply Unique Images.

And I think to myself 18 years isn’t enough time. And then I think of all the ways she changed me. 

There were many days when I came up short. I remember the moments when I failed her as a mom. The moments when I cried at home wondering how much therapy she would need for the damage I caused because of my craziness. 

I remember watching other moms with their kids. Oh my, how it seemed how motherhood fit them, a like a duck taking to water, gliding through this thing called life. 

I remember the feeling of being way too much and then not enough all at the same time. More days than not, I fought the process of growing through grace because getting it perfect was more important.

I snap back to today at the chirp of my phone, it’s time to get the other kids to school and myself to work. I look in my rear view mirror and survey the fine lines forming around my eyes. I feel spent, yet whole as I remember a conversation Cheyenne and I had years ago when we first got her diagnosis of autism. 

“Stop comparing how you mom and be yourself. We aren’t like other families and that’s okay with me. You know how to take care of me. Only you can mother me the way I need it.” 

Wise words for a girl at the age of 11. Am I right? 

Photography by my sweet friend, Catrina Gray of Simply Unique Images.

Now days I don’t look for a better version of myself because I know the process, day by day, year by year–sometimes it takes 18 years to realize I’m not perfect but to embrace a truer version of who I’ve always been. A mother, a warrior, strong and loved. This is what 18 years has taught me.

Be the truest version of who God created you to be.

Trust him in the process.

Be that girl, that mama, today and always. 



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