Sunday, May 15, 2011

in the end, forgiveness

My wonderful kid graduates from high school on Friday. That's in less than a week! I'm excited for her and for me, and I'm completely wrapped up in the flashy, full-time extravaganza that is Commencement. But I've also had deep feelings of sadness, apprehension, and loneliness.

I've dreaded my kid's high school graduation for at least a year, and maybe ever since she was born. For one thing, I'm going to lose the best roommate I could ever hope to have.

But mostly I've dreaded graduation because this is it.

This. Is. It.

No more time to get it right, to correct mistakes, to make amends. All the angst in the world won't make any difference now. My kid is permanently branded with all my parental screw-ups and misadventures. There's no more time for me to get more involved in the PTA, to check her homework, to chaparone field trips, to teach her about God. Sure, I did some of this, but not enough, and especially not lately. I've been too busy trying to dig my way out of some serious wreckage, both past and present. I've been horribly distracted, and now it's too late.

The bottom line is this: I was not the parent I wanted to be, and I can never, ever change that fact.

Except that I can. I can, and I have.

It happened last Wednesday night in the school's west hallway. Traditionally, the seniors' parents decorate their kids' lockers in secret, just as graduation activities are heating up. I knew about this in advance, but felt dejected and uninspired. Last week I carelessly bought a couple crafty supplies that I saw on clearance; I figured I'd come up with something. Whatever.

On Wednesday, though, I forgot to bring the supplies. So I spent about two hours shopping. And thinking. And then shopping and thinking some more. I went back and forth between the party and school-supply aisles at least half a dozen times, and in the end I found inspiration.  By the time I arrived at school, I knew just what I wanted to do, and I spent the next two hours lost in decorating that 12 x 36 blue steel canvas. In the end, it was bliss, just diving head-first into that simple, joyful act of little-kid parenting.

But that was later. First, it was pretty miserable.

The hallway was packed with parents -- people I didn't know very well. If I had volunteered as much as I was supposed to, I'd know most of these people by name. I felt alone, realizing that I had squandered this incredible opportunity to be 100% engaged for my daughter during her five years at this amazing performing-arts school. And now, it was too late. God, what a terrible waste!

But somewhere in there as I was sinking into the quicksand of regret -- somewhere between cutting out bubble wrap, and trying to work with impossible blueberry-flavored edible basket-grass, and wrestling with a fat yellow balloon -- a long-buried and important truth finally broke through my misery into the moonlight:

It really doesn't matter whether I had the experience I wanted or not. What matters is that my kid got the experience she needed.

Well, damn. That's really what mattered all along.

And with that epiphany came the recognition that I'm largely responsible for making sure it happened that way. For all my false starts and blatant idiocies, for all the broken boulevards I tried to pave over with great intentions, I kept my eyes on the road. I did it despite considerable pressure from others to take a shorter, grassier route. When others were saying, "she'll do fine wherever she is," I knew place mattered. The school, the teachers, the surroundings, the curriculum, it all mattered. And because I stuck to my guns on this, she had what she needed when her family fell apart. She landed in a sturdy safety net woven by gifted, loving teachers, dedicated, empathic advisers, and stalwart friends. They pointed her toward her art, which led her, finally, out of harm's way.

As I came to this realization -- sitting on the floor surrounded by bubble wrap and balloons and scotch tape and candy -- I experienced overwhelming relief. Then immediately, pride and delight: Delight in the amazing person my daughter has become, and pride in knowing I had a part.

And now, at long last, I feel joy in a job sloppily executed, but very well done.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. In other words...

    Trust God.


  3. Very well done, indeed. Love you!

  4. Lynne, that was beautiful!

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