For those of you who have a child about to graduate from pre-school to elementary, from elementary to high school or from high school or college out into the world, June can be a challenging month. As parents, we get tiny prods and pokes along the way that indicate our kids are growing: the first time they insist on going to the restaurant bathroom by themselves, the first time you see them blush in the presence of the opposite sex, the dreaded words, “can I drive?”
Graduation is a speed bump, however, a sudden major step we don’t really want to take. But it’s there, and we have to deal with it. So we drive slowly forward, planning a graduation celebration, trying to find a present that says, “I’m proud of you,” and preserving this major stage in life by taking lots of pictures. We have to keep reminding ourselves that our status as parents hasn’t changed, just diminished in daily significance.
I realized as my daughter’s move from high school to college approached, that I needed to take things as I normally do – by degrees. My husband and I have already discussed what we want to do with retirement. I have been taking my child around to colleges since she was a sophomore, trying to visualize her on the campuses while getting her interested in this new kind of life. And I even did my crying – she went on a trip to Italy earlier this year that she helped pay for herself, and as we hugged goodbye for the nine days, the floodgates opened. My little girl had gotten a job, reached a goal, found a dream all on her own.
There is simply no way to fill the hole that will be left when she leaves. I know that; I accept it; I realize this wonderful trip into parenthood has been well worth any pain I now feel. But I have found a way to make the hole a little less deep. As my beautiful daughter gets ready to make more of her dreams come true, I’m making a few of my own dreams a reality and getting to spend some really wonderful time with my own mother in the process of writing our books.
My writing won’t stop the tears from falling when Christina gets the diploma and goes off to school, but it makes me realize that our relationship isn’t leaving when she does. It’s just changing, and I hope that, like with Mom, my daughter and I can move from a relationship in which I watch her grow to one where we can grow together.
Genilee Swope Parente, proud mother and proud daughter