Well, we've been through several ceremonies already, and "last times" with our older daughter, who was a five-year-old, singing-and-dancing sprite around the house just a few months ago. I'm not handling it very well emotionally, even though I keep up a good front for the kids. I feel suddenly very old. I've never felt old before.
This coming week, my little girl (the older one, on the left below, along with my niece who's getting married in a couple of weeks, my baby, and my wife) will graduate from high school, and start packing for college. She's got a great thing going, and a passion for music and theater which has been rewarded with generous scholarship money, and lots of encouragement from present and future instructors. She's going to sing the opening number at her graduation ceremony, which I will try to record and post online...I failed miserably with her show-stopping number from the recent spring concert, when my camera's battery failed to charge for some reason. Well, it's one of those memories the wife and I will have for ourselves, along with a few family members.
The school principal put out this piece in the last newsletter of the year, and once again, I found myself all verklempt and distraught, over the too-fast passage of time in this life. Seems like yesterday, I was teaching her to ride her bike. Then, it was the car, which is now the veteran of a couple of fender-benders, and two traffic-tickets, which only double the already-high teenage insurance premium.
Ok, enough whining. I love my kids, my wife, and my life in general. I've been very, very lucky. I wouldn't mind a few do-overs, in certain areas, but I feel like I did the best I could, at the time.
Wit's End . . . notes from the principal
Dont let go. Dont let go. Are you letting go? Dont let go!
My thoughts today are about the seniors and all that is taking place now and all that is to come in the next three months. The college applications are recent history. Selection has been made. Sites are set on graduation. Orientation may already be scheduled. Dormitory assignments will soon be known. Shopping trips loom large in the near future . . . packing, re-packing, loading, unloading, unpacking all the energy devoted to helping the college freshman settle into her new world.
Dont let go!
I take you back to what I hope is an easily accessible memory, a memory that you likely share with thousands, if not millions, of parents. I take you back to the day your daughter was perched on the precipice of successfully riding a two wheeler for the first time. Your memory may resurrect images of big wheels or of a similar three wheel low rider. How old was she when she demanded a big girl bike? You acquiesced, perhaps tentatively, but felt reassured when you attached the sturdy training wheels to the rear axle. Those wheels sustained your calm for yet a few more months, while the bike and its sheer size represented new found maturity and freedom for her.
Then came the day. She was anxious with anticipation. Training days were history. She was going to work, and you were going to assist her for as long as it took to transition. The wheels, training that is, came off. Helmet may or may not have been strapped on and the two of you steadied yourselves on the sidewalk. How clear is your memory? You stood with one hand planted firmly on the handlebars and the other on the back of the seat as she climbed aboard. The mammoth work of iron shifted left, then right. She may have had some difficulty centering herself, voicing her doubts as to whether or not this was, indeed, the day for this. You reassured, she furrowed her brow in concentration, and off you went. She pedaled. You jogged alongside.
Dont let go!
Your hands held their initial positions, handlebars and seat respectively. Her concentration deepened. Your heart rate increased. You ran alongside. First milestone achieved! She was still moving, still vertical. You coaxed her, praised her, still smiled, still laughed. You readied her, prepared her, before releasing the handlebars, promising that your other hand remained securely fastened to the back of the seat. As she continued to pedal tirelessly, her own knuckles white from the grip she held up front, did you release the bike seat oh so briefly and at the same time convince her to the contrary? At some moment whether or not she displayed the necessary confidence, you swallowed hard and told her she was ready. You were going to remain alongside, running in rescue mode.
Ready? Ready, honey? You can do this! Ill be right here beside you. OK. Im going to let go. Youre doin great. Im here. OK. Im letting go now. OK? Youre ready.
And the magic occurred. You were running alongside but your hands were now pumping near your waist. You couldnt keep up. She moved farther and farther ahead of you. No longer coaching, now you were cheering.
Youre doin it! Youre riding! Look at you. I knew you could do it. Youre riding all by yourself!
Now, heres where selective memory and forgetting may be an issue. Maybe, in reality, there was a crash of sorts, or at least a bump and thud. Presumably, some did not ride off into the sunset that day. But the big girl had conquered the big girl bike. A new freedom was born! You survived that letting go. And for many years since that moment, you have experienced other letting gos. Youre OK, more than OK, but you now face one of the tougher times, your hand no longer the steadying force on the edge of a bicycle seat. Now, your daughter leaves high school, and make no mistake, with that action, you are challenged to let go in one of the most significant ways.
She is hungry for what your letting go means at this moment. Despite her swagger and how convincingly she tells you that she cant wait to move out, shes fearful. She is anxious. This new experience looms larger than the two wheeler, and conquering it holds mystery and wonder and terror. So, here is your next move. Let go! Do so with the same smile and confidence that masked your fears for her that day when you released the bicycle seat and told her, Youre ready. You can do this!
Give her and yourself a gift. Dont deny the feelings that will be yours to master in the weeks and months ahead. Shell be excited about all that awaits her away from home. Dont tell her the difficulty of the transition youre experiencing. Dont share the sadness you feel. Dont define her independence as personal devastation. Youve done a great job! You have guided her and cheered alongside through all the developmental moments that got you here. Let her know, repeatedly, how excited you are for her. Be happy and show her happy while she prepares to leave you. Dont cripple her by somehow communicating a damaging myth the myth that suggests that parents should crumble once their darling readies to leave the nest.
Let go. Your confidence in who she is and what she can achieve will arm her to face all that will confound and confuse her. That day when you released the seat of the bicycle didnt initiate any tragedy. She learned to ride!
Ready. Set. Let go!