Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If they don’t get older in the scrapbook, does that mean they will never leave?

My oldest daughter is a junior in high school this year.  My time for getting her scrapbooks caught up is ticking away like the second hand on a clock.  I may have to hire it done.  I’m not even sure you can do that.  I just know that my feet are stuck in the sands of the hourglass, and I am not getting it done.
I think part of me thinks if I don’t get it done, then she will stay with me.  I’m not ready for her to go.  Sure; there are days when I am more than ready to see what comes next for her. I am terrified to not have her here.  How do you go from spending every minute with them, to sending them away to school?  I don’t remember that section in the book we received at the hospital..  You go from having them with you twenty-four hours a day, to not having them with you at all. 
I know by the time we were juniors in college, we didn’t even go home for the summer any more.  We just stayed at college and came home for major holidays.  I can’t decide if that was a blessing to our parents, or if they struggled also.
My middle child, a high school freshman, went away to honor band for a weekend recently.  I was lost.  I kept thinking that a part of  me was missing.  There are supposed to be three of them here, not two.  It was odd.  This letting go business is hard. 
We have started the journey of looking at prospective colleges with my oldest daughter, and true to my nature, I notice the quality of the food at each place.  It is good that colleges provide food.  If left to her own devices, she may starve.  She won’t have a stove in her room, so she wouldn’t be able to make a pizza, and that is pretty much the only thing she can cook.  She once tried to make a hot dog in the microwave and she cooked it for four minutes.  Do you know what a hot dog looks like after four minutes under nuclear heat? I’ll tell you - it doesn’t look like a hot dog anymore.  This doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in her striking out on her own. 
When I worried about her going to first grade, I wondered how she would carry her lunch tray to the table without spilling it. Now the first thing I worry about for her in college is her food situation again. 
Of course, I also worry about her safety, her study habits, and her ability to make friends.  She is pretty quiet. If she and another quiet girl met, they could be good friends—but then again, if they are both quiet, who is going to talk first?
I met the love of my life my senior year in high school.  I had him for support during college.  She hasn’t started dating.  This is a fact that I am happy about currently, because I have seen how some of those high school boys drive; heck, I have seen how SHE drives, and it is a frightening prospect. 
There are upsides to her leaving, of course. It’s one more person to write actual letters to; I remember waiting anxiously for mail.  Back then, you waited days for letters.  Now with email, the wait is minutes.  I suppose in that instance, the immediate-gratification era has a point in its favor.  With cell phones and email, we can be connected at all times.  And she’s good about calling me. As it is, she calls me from her room, when I am downstairs. 
So if I never finish the scrapbook, will she never leave?  Will I be holding her back from all she is yet to discover and be?  Should I force her to do things she doesn't think she wants to do, just so she doesn't miss out on the experience?  What will I do when I do let her go, and she pulls a Heather, and doesn't come home at the holidays?  Does that reflect well on my parenting, or poorly?  Which part is easier—sending them to college or marrying them off?  If I hit menopause when she does get married, can I request a winter wedding, so I won’t sweat like a pig and stain the satiny dress I will be required to wear?  Are teenagers so difficult to understand and deal with so it will be easier to see them go? 
Oh, how I wish I could ask my mother or grandmother about these things
My questions are many, but the solutions are clear.  When crunch time comes, the scrapbooks will be done, and I will let her go.  She will spread her wings and she will leave the nest to see what the world has to offer, and experience what God has planned for her. 
I just need to realize that while she is my child, she is also a child of God, and I don’t own her.  I have to hope that I have taught her something about the world and that she knows how to get through life without too many scrapes.  God is as much with her as he is with me, and he will be with both of us during the next chapter. 
After all, once in high school, I caught the kitchen on fire making a Pop Tart for breakfast.  All she did was overcook a hot dog, and the microwave is still in working order.  She is already ahead … and I turned out fine.  Right?

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