My stomach twists at the pink paper sitting amongst the table’s clutter. “Freshman Course Selection” boldly fills the top margin. Next fall, our oldest begins high school. It seems inconceivable.
My memory flashes to ‘old’ parenting worries: potty training, shoe tying, running into traffic, choking on hard candy. Those moments that felt insurmountable seem silly now, just as today’s worries will feel in another four years. Instead of toddler in a high chair, an emerging young woman sits across the table from me. The pink paper waits between us, further proof she’s growing up.
Our discussions over high school course selection have been heated. I’m concerned over her heavy course load. Despite my husband’s sensible confidence, I’m worried. I repeatedly explain my worry that she’ll feel overwhelmed. Her sigh indicates she’s tired of my worries.
“Why don’t you give me any credit?” she angrily responds.
I back pedal, trying to explain how capable I think she is, while also describing how challenging high school can be. Our conversation ends with frustration and anger. The pink paper remains incomplete.
That evening, my husband asks why I think she’ll struggle. She’s always been a good student, so what is behind my shaky confidence? I’m irritated he doesn’t understand my point. Doesn’t he remember feeling overwhelmed?
He gently reminds me…she isn’t me. Her experiences will be completely different.
Suddenly I realize what I’ve done. I’ve been thinking her journey would be just like mine. I unfairly placed my fears and memories and situations onto her. The unfairness of it sinks into my soul.
My mother died six weeks into my freshman year of high school. Although her cancer diagnosis had upended our lives for months, none of us were prepared for her dying. These were different times. Social workers weren’t part of the education system. Hospice groups weren’t present. In 1981, my small town’s resources were very limited.
I’ve now outlived my mother. Despite working through inaccurate beliefs and tangled emotions over the years, this sneaky stuff still catches me off balance. The pink paper confirming my daughter was registering for freshman year opened up a trap door I didn’t even know existed. Damn, but that grief is tricky. Parenting is hard enough, but add in all the stuff that influences our perspective?
Finally my head, heart and history get aligned and I understand my husband’s words. She isn’t me. Her experiences will be totally different. Hopefully, her freshman year will prove to be wonderful. Fun! Exciting, even! Why shouldn’t it?!
I was making it seem like a battle. It wasn’t intended, but I had been tossing her , preparing her for situation that were mine, not hers.
It got me thinking. How often have I done this? How often have I gathered unnecessary provisions based on completely faulty logic? How often do any of us projected our past onto an innocent person?
The next afternoon my heart beats hard in my chest as I apologize to this little-girl-turned-young-woman. My eyes well as I attempt to explain. It was about me, not her. I don’t like it, but sometimes my faulty perspective comes from my old experiences. I apologize. We hug. She says she understands, but can she?
It’s frustrating that a loss so many years ago continues creating complications today. My wise husband finds the right word. Balance. We want her high school years to have balance. Academics as well as time for sports or activities or fun. She agrees. Balance is important. With that, decisions get made. Blue ink completes the pink paper. A new freshman registers. I take a deep breath and think about balance. is important. She will be balanced. She will be fine.