Today Brooke heads back to college for the fall term. We just came home from a lovely brunch and soon her boyfriend will be around to pick up her belongings so the two of them can set off for campus tomorrow. Although her things have been packed in boxes near the front door for a week, and there is large pile of stuffed animals and other childhood memorabilia she cleaned out of her room awaiting donation to charity, I’m just now getting twinges of loss and sadness, while at the same time I find I am at peace with her transition to adulthood.
Attending the first semester of college over the summer turned out to be a huge boon for her. Brooke’s “inner adult” is doing a good job of coming forward to take the reins of her life. I’ve been turning over responsibilities and decision making for the past year, teaching her the how’s and whys along the way, but the necessity of even that has ebbed away. These past fourteen days she has been home has heralded a recalibration of our relationship.
I am learning anew how and when to express concern, love and guidance. For example, we talked of her getting a tattoo. At first, she had a desire for the two of us to get a tattoo together. I was deeply honored, though I am not even remotely a tattoo person—though I would get one with her, and only her, if she seriously wanted it. She then considered getting one with a school friend and showed me several rather unattractive options neither she nor her friend could agree on. Our conversation meandered as we looked at more tattoo designs, when suddenly she said, “Roger would probably have a fit if I got a tattoo.” It was then I realized that in spite of her independence, she still wants us to “have a fit” over some of the things she contemplates.
When I realized this, I thought back on some of our previous conversations and how I’d handled them. She is 18, and can make decisions for herself. I know better than to try to talk people out of doing things they are set on doing… after all, I am the one who spent hours trying to talk friends out of making huge mistakes only to have them do it anyway, then beg me to help clean up the aftermath. Brooke is my daughter, and I realized in the midst of all of her “adulting” she is still looking for a little bit of “old fashioned” parental commentary.
In the end, I made sure she knows how deeply I love her, how much I long for her to thrive and live a full life. I discussed the serious consequences of some of the things “everybody is doing” and reminded her that in the end, it is up to her, and her responsibility to deal with her choices.
Just as we took the training wheels off her little kid bike, and stepped on to the curb as she peddled madly down the street, I find myself again, stepping back, onto the curb as she heads off in her boyfriend’s little pickup truck, hoping it’s all going to be all right, hoping she doesn’t fall and get hurt too badly, hoping she makes it through…while at the same time finding myself in awe of the woman my daughter is becoming.