Senior Year: A Mom Readies Herself to Let Go

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I am struck by the speed-of-light passage of time these days.  In the last few, Emily has headed off for the first day of her senior year, and she is full of energy, excitement, plans. Meeting other seniors in the “senior parking lot” to put window paints on their cars. Things like “SEN YAS!” and “Class of 2012 Rules!” I know kids have been doing this for generations, but not mine. This is a first, and there is something solid stuck in my throat. There is a direct and inverse correlation between her happiness and my bittersweet resignation. She is emerging, and I am becoming irrelevant. Her start is my finish. At least, in terms of this precious chapter of our lives together. I hear from other parents that life is good, sometimes better, after they go off to college. But the desperation I feel to make each of the next 350 days special, better, how I want her to picture her childhood, clouds any chance of seeing that image. 

Time seemed to stretch out forever when she was little – there was the FUTURE. We were focused on things like reading, dance class, playdates. Now, I find, there is no time. The bell is ringing, and I’m not sure we got it all done! Hands up! Pencils down! Have we said everything we meant to? Done everything we intended? 

When you make your life about someone else’s life, I think it is impossible not to worry what will remain when that person leaves. Our first is not our only, so we really won’t know right away. But I fear my invisibility differently today. Our younger children will grow and leave, too. We’ve always known this. But now, with Emily literally counting down the days, I can feel it – heavy, slick, loaded.

We have taken pictures every 1st day of school for Emily’s entire life, standing in the same spot, school uniform clean and pressed. This morning, she stood in front of the rocking horse, Senior Class t-shirt hitched at her hip, hair neatly twisted, cupcakes in hand. It is a picture I will never forget – my baby’s last 1st day at home. I wish for her every joy, every happiness, that this world has to offer, even if she will go experience them on her own.

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  1. Oh Elizabeth, I feel your pain. What have I forgotten to teach her, tell her, explain to her? I know she is a good person, believes in God, loves her family (even if she does still tease her younger sister). I too have taken a first day of school picture every year, wish now that I had framed them, hey it’s not too late!
    I must trust that she will remember the important things I just hope they remember to call home early and often! My daughter is attending a local community college for her first year or maybe 2 so I still have some time. But after that POOF she can’t wait to spread her wings and fly on her own. Scary. I hope no one is mean to her, treats her poorly or tricks her into anything dangerous. That is one of my biggest fears. But our girls are smart and good, they will trust their guts.
    By the way, I love your articles, they touch me, and I love reading them.

  2. Bernadette, I am flattered. And happy to know that there are others out there going through these same things! (as mothers and fathers have for generations…) Maybe we will learn something new about ourselves in the process, and do a little growing, too. Good luck!

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