Forgive me dearest readers, for I have sinned. I realize my maternal emotions have taken over as of late, leading me to share with you the torrent of eldest-child-related-activities which have taken center stage in my life for the past seven months: college searching, prom-dress contemplations, and now, the pinnacle of it all – high school graduation.
It’s not that I’ve stopped dating, or that my life has been otherwise void of amusing anecdotes, but those items have been placed on the back burner. Such are the sacrifices one makes as a single parent. And since I was recently reminded that at this juncture in our society’s evolution, only 48 percent of all marriages are successful, I know there are plenty of single parents out there who have been feeling my joy – and pain.
So, this is it. D-Day has arrived. No more starry-eyed daydreams of the future, imagining what feelings will fill my heart when my first-born is on the cusp of venturing out of the nest and into the brave new world that is higher education. No more wondering what she will look like when she “grows up.” No more sitting in front of a computer screen, in a nursing bra and baggy sweater laced with baby spit-up, staring incredulously at Fidelity’s college planning website chart that says, “if your child was born this year, by 2011 you will need to have saved $185,000 in order to send her to a private college – so don’t plan on going on any vacations, purchasing any decent clothing or buying any Pellegrino for a couple of decades.”
This weekend, along with a gaggle of other students across the country, my lovely daughter receives her high school diploma. With it will come a stream of tears, a heart full of love and memories, and a sigh that says, “Wow, we made it.”
When you have children, every accomplishment of theirs also feels like an accomplishment of yours. And it is. Because, although they are their own unique human beings, let’s face it: they are only donning that cap and gown because you, dear parent, have somehow managed to keep them alive. From birth onward, you are their guardian angel. And in the beginning, you are more like an entire paramedic squad.
Everything in your home is child-proofed. For four years or so, you cannot plug anything into an electrical outlet, open a bathroom or kitchen cabinet door, walk through a doorway or up or down a flight of stairs without an ungodly amount of unlatching, finagling or feats of gymnastic ridiculousness.
Admittedly, my thighs were never in better shape than during the eight consecutive years in which I navigated a house outfitted with childproofing gates. I could have easily put members of the U.S. Olympic hurdling team to shame.
The other night, I sat with Ophelia on a bench in Portland, as she reminisced about her final day at the creative business establishment where she was fortunate enough to do her senior internship project. As I sat beside her, looking into her father’s big, chocolaty brown eyes, I felt a sense of awe. I thought to myself, “Wow. Where did this wonderful, witty, gorgeous, sweet, sensitive, smart, quirky, creative and insightful young woman come from? Surely, this cannot be the product of my years of try-my-best brand of parenting. There must have been divine intervention.”
Just as those deep thoughts infiltrated my brain, I had flashbacks of a pregnancy test and tears of happiness, labor pains and the sweet scent of new-baby skin, red-striped tights and first steps, a French nursery school fiasco, bubble baths with Barbie dolls, ballet recitals, temper tantrums (mine and hers), birthday parties and homemade Halloween costumes, flower fairies and notes to Santa Claus. Braids and Band-Aids, kisses and hugs and tears over middle school friendship dramas, late-night talks about bras and boys and the pain and joy of falling in love with someone, someday.
And I remembered exactly where she came from. And I wouldn’t have missed one single skinned knee.
Congratulations to all the graduates, and to the parents who love them.
The best is yet to come.