When you walked into Parents’ Day Out as a two year old firecracker with a mop of curly blonde hair, you didn’t look back. “Bye, Mommy!” you said, and you marched right in and began to play. On the days I would linger to talk to your teacher or another mom, you would walk over and tell me, “you can go now.” I don’t remember a single instance during your toddler years or childhood when you experienced separation anxiety. You were fearless, independent, curious. You couldn’t wait to explore and learn and play.
Not much has changed.
Today is your last first day, the beginning of your senior year of high school, the beginning of the end. And I’m okay. Really.
I’ve promised you I won’t cry this year—a promise we both know I probably won’t keep, despite my best intentions. This time next year, when you are packing boxes and loading your car, when we decorate your dorm room then drive away and return home without you, then all bets are off and all promises are null and void. I know and you know I will be a red hot mess.
But that’s a year away.
For the next twelve months, Dad and I will celebrate with you. You are not sad, so we will not be sad. We will not cast a shadow on your excitement. We will honor your years of hard work, of studying, of learning, of maturing. We will look at you in awe, amazed by this young woman we raised so well, in spite of ourselves. We will exhale with relief, knowing our many mistakes were miraculously and inexplicably redeemed. I mean, seriously: look at you!
And I’ve already told you: I am going to All The Things. I’m not going to miss one. I will attend every performance (even the repeat ones…probably), every concert, every meeting. I will chaperone (which I haven’t done since Nathan’s first grade field trip to the museum). Go ahead, roll your eyes. I don’t care. I’m not going to forfeit a minute. I’ve intentionally encouraged your independence all these years by not hovering, often to a fault. I may have been a teensy bit too uninvolved. Not this year. So you’re just going to have to accept that. Sorry.
And I’m probably going to hug you a lot. I’m going to tell you how much I love you, how proud I am, how you make me ridiculously happy, how your very existence allowed me to come alive and better understand the character and love of God.
But I’m not going to cry.
If you do see my eyes get red and watery, and if you notice my voice cracking, know that I’m crying not because I’m sad but because I am so stinkin’ proud of you. I’m probably thinking about all you’ve been through, all you’ve survived, the scars you wear, and the beauty that grew from them. I’m remembering those years when brokenness and doubt became your teachers. My tears are an offering of overwhelming thanks to God for answering a desperate mother’s prayer. Hold her tightly. She’s flailing. She’s so lost. She’s so sad. She’s so angry. Don’t let go. Oh God, hold her securely in your hand until she can rest.
If I’m crying, my tears are only tears of gratitude and joy and pride. Look at you! Look what God did!
I will cry because you are ready. You are so ready! You survived the darkest darkness, and you emerged strong and wise. Your faith is deeply rooted and watered, and your branches reach for the sun and bear sweet fruit. You love and serve with passion and justice and grace. For all our faults in being too hands-off, I think we did something right. We have no hesitation in sending you out into the world because we have seen you take care of yourself. We’ve sat back and watched you advocate for yourself, think for yourself, do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it. We’ve sipped our tea while you’ve washed your clothes, prepared your food, budgeted your money, pumped your gas. We have purposely raised you to leave, and we’ve done a damn good job. (Sometimes I think we’ve done too well because you’re a little too anxious to jump out of our nest and fly far far away. And your fierce independence occasionally prevents you from asking for our help. This “raise an independent child” thing has come back to bite us in the ass.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. That is a conversation to have next year, when I am allowed to cry.
For now, we will celebrate all you have become. We will cheer you on and take an obscene number of pictures.
Ready? (You are. I am. Most days. Yes. No. Maybe. Yes.)
Here we go…