Senior year of high school sucks. You know the drill: college-application stress, the ACT tests and retests, the “This is the last time we will have Christmas break as seniors” kind of sniffle-sniffle nostalgia stuff. I know, because I’m reliving it through my daughter, Lake, who calls daily from boarding school as she inches her way toward that high dive into adulthood known as high school graduation. That’s when she will launch herself into a whole new world where she’ll present her next act—whatever it is. Next fall she can reinvent herself on a college campus as an ironic hipster in a wool sock cap or as a cool math major who also travels the world studying French. The possibilities are endless. But Lake’s dive into adulthood forces me into a big dive of my own: learning how to let go of that baby Lake I always knew.
Though I still long to grab both her hands as I did when she was a toddler and guide her around all the real and imagined (oh, so many imagined!) obstacles, I know that she’s a young adult now, and I must let her make her own decisions. Instead of physically leading her, I am forced to coach from the sidelines. I can remind her that the water is cool, assure her that she knows the right strokes and toss her a towel when she gets wet. And when she belly flops while attempting a triple somersault, I can let her know that I had many failures, too, and that we all survive to try again. At some point I will even confide that I actually hate high dives, that I have never really had the guts for that moment of free fall in which true risk takers exult.
As the family drove last summer through all those fabulous college campuses—some of which I had visited as a teen 30 or so years ago—I found myself picturing the various ways my young adulthood might have turned out differently depending on which school I attended. The truth I arrived at: My life would have been pretty much the same. I was probably going to be just who I am, with a few different pings or dents along the way. And Lake will be who she is, no matter where she goes to school. But here’s the irony about my reinvention as a hands-off mother: Just when you think you’ve mastered this parent thing and figured out how to keep your baby safe, the world demands that you release your grip. I wish this particular reinvention could be as simple as choosing a new hemline or freshening up my haircut. But at this stage of life, it’s about much, much more. Join me on my Facebook page if you want to talk.
Want MORE? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.