Just yesterday my daughter began her freshman year of high school, ditching middle school as easily as parental advice. Navigating three floors of classrooms with 1600 students jamming hallways seemed intimidating yet exciting. It was definitely bigger stuff than the comparatively small middle school comprised of only two grades.
Today she nears the end of her high school days, ready to escape the immaturity of the lowly underclassmen, annoying teachers and stupid rules. Her incarceration ends this week when she’ll be released on good behavior, receiving her slip of paper announcing she’s completed her four year sentence—with honors!
Endings and beginnings—isn’t life full of those? The baby stage ends when walking begins. When children attend school, we say goodbye to toddlerhood. And before we can blink, high school graduation is staring us in the face. Bittersweet emotions fill us, tears of joy and sadness mixing like oil and vinegar. We teach, train and discipline our children as they move from toddler to tween, tween to teen, for the moment they will stroll across a platform wearing cap and gown. Still, that day occurs more suddenly than a lightning bolt flashes across the sky. And, we are caught by surprise. We didn’t know the day would arrive so quickly—and have we done enough? Have we prepared, encouraged and coached enough? Is it ever enough?
Frankly, I just don’t know. How many times have I beaten myself up for not being a better example, a more perfect role model? I’ve committed a multitude of mistakes—nagging and needling my daughter like a whiny toddler. Like a witness on the stand, I’ve badgered her with questions. I’ve said things I shouldn’t have and wished for more do-over moments than the number of shoes in Imelda Marcos’ closet.
Yet, I’ve also cheered, listened, supported and prayed for that lovely young lady. I’ve worked on expressing love without condition, even when her room looks like a tornado touched down leaving debris everywhere. Above all else, I hope I loved well and forgave often.
Have I done enough? Certainly, I’ve equipped her well in the tangibles. If desperate, Alix can whip up a mean macaroni and cheese or top ramen soup. She can operate a washing machine and most likely holds the record for the number of clothes she’s folded. Cleaning bathrooms, a breeze. Getting along with people? Easy!
I don’t stew about these issues. For a girl who’s flown more than halfway across the United States by herself every summer navigating an array of different airports, figuring out the layout of campus or traversing a new town are simple problems to solve. No, I fret over the very things I should be offering in prayer to the Creator. Will she make good friends? Will she make good decisions? If she gets in a pickle, will she look up instead of to her friends? Have I shown her how to do that? Have I equipped her enough for the issues she will face all by herself—without mom and dad to freely offer sage advice! Does she know that no matter what, we love her—no matter what?!
Time is slipping by, and there’s so much I want to say in these last couple of months before her new beginning…her new adventure. Over her 18 years, I’ve taught, advised and preached in various venues, at different times, yet it feels like there’s still more to convey and not enough time! I desire her to be fully prepared for every situation. Still, I know that’s not possible. She’s ready to fly, and those wings are flapping so loudly, she can’t hear much of the words flowing from my lips. To her, they must sound an awful lot like the teacher in Charlie Brown—“Wah, wah, wah, wah!”
While I want to slow these summer days down; she desires the clock to tick a little faster. Until that instance when I kiss her goodbye at the dorm room door—if she’ll let me kiss her—I am challenged to make each moment matter. I’m determined to preach a little less, love a little more. Keep the nagging down, the encouragement up. Loosen the reins, tighten the affection.
If I spend my days loving her and laughing with her, won’t this girl carry positive memories of her last season living at home full time? During the hard days of homework and homesickness, lectures and late nights, classes and cafeteria food, what do I want her to remember? A magnificent ending, of course! Just like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, I desire this finale to be noteworthy and striking.
Won’t such a grand ending spark her to a remarkable beginning?