My oldest child thinks she’s going to high school next year. This is absurd because high school is for big kids who are practically adults. Also, she just started kindergarten yesterday, I swear. I know everyone says this, but I remember that day so vividly it makes me catch my breath to think how fast the time has passed. But while I was something of a soggy mess at 8th grade graduation a few weeks ago, I’m also trying to pull it together and help her step boldly into this next big phase.
We’ve been talking a lot lately, usually in the car, and occasionally over coffee (she loves coffee, so I must have done SOMETHING right?) and I find myself steering clear of the stereotypical lectures I thought I would be making at this juncture. Instead, I’m increasingly caught calmly repeating the same basic idea: be true to yourself.
It often takes us years, decades even, to begin to care less what others think and more about what is true and absolute. For me this means my hubs and kids, a sketchbook, lots of dogs, old buildings to draw and dream about, and good coffee. Some of my closest friends don’t share these loves but it doesn’t make us incompatible, just uniquely different. Our friendships are based on sharing dinner or going for a run, not modeling our lives after one another or what we perceive each other has.
“Learning to trust your own instincts can be hard, but its so worth it!”
I love to remind the kids that one of my favorite days of my life was our outdoor, rain delayed, broken air conditioning, ran out of punch, do it yourself lakeside wedding. Guests sat on straw bales and gazed at mason jars of simple stems many years before barn weddings made it hip. But the most important piece was that my 22 year old self had zero hesitation in saying forever. Because I knew myself. And my parents never second guessed or questioned a thing, because they’d been there the whole time, watching me become me.
They must have felt like I do now, watching with pride but aching to slow time as days turn to months turn to years. As graduation became graduate school and jobs became careers, as a boyfriend became a husband and later a father to grandchildren. As big purchases and moves were made, ever-visible to my parents was the same person I’d always been. More refined, somehow just a better version of myself.
I can’t be with my daughter every second, and I’m finding that I don’t need to be. There’s something truly remarkable in the gift of time, in that I know my child, and she knows me. She knows I’m weak, and flawed, and complicated, and (I hope) brave. And I know that she’s a leader, a fierce competitor, and a true friend.
I may ugly cry for more than a few minutes this fall, as this “first day of school” will set the stage for the next few fleeting and magical years of high school. So for now, I am present, and proud, and in awe. Because the best gift of parenting is watching our children become their truest selves. I’ll be re-reading this post to myself in years to come, reminding maybe to remind myself that we will never really be far, but just far enough, praying for the best, and guarding against a fall.