Last But Not Least Flying the Coop

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There’s a cruel yet necessary part of life that the universe has subjected parents to—the final year of high school when your teen knows everything and finds ways to make you unapologetically not like them. At times, you don’t like them so much that you can’t wait for them to leave. If this did not happen, we would be basket cases when they finally fly away. Right now, I cannot wait for my baby bird to take flight.

Thirteen years ago, I recall telling a friend, “Grace loves me so. She will never hate me like her sister hates me. She will always love me and treat me wonderfully.” Grace is exactly 7 years younger than her sister Paige. When Grace was 4, she loved me. She clung to me every chance she got. She walked so close to me that I had to ask her to walk 10 paces behind me. But slowly, things began to turn for Grace, too. I guess I knew it would eventually. When Paige was 11, she was beginning to hate me. It happens—mothers of daughters around the world know what I’m talking about. At some point, the blood running through your daughter’s veins heats up. Yep, that’s it: hot-blooded youth. One minute, they are warm and loving, the next on fire with rage. They have raging hormones, and don’t understand the metamorphosis occurring in their bodies and minds. They are busy with drama stirred up by their peers—male and female.  Just living in the pre-teen world starts to change them into people you mostly love but sometimes can’t stand.

During the high school years, including this year’s final one, I have watched Grace bloom into a smart, capable and empathetic young woman. A leader. A giver. However, when she came down with “senioritis,” I recognized it immediately, having dealt with the same condition that afflicted her sister years earlier. Becoming a senior means they are oh-so-evolved and mature and independent. There are parties and other social events, concerns and overnights. They can drive to school and to most places. And the minute you say ‘no’ to driving somewhere, hold on—your world erupts into a cyclone you sort of predicted, but didn’t really see coming.

During this year, the pressure of taking SAT tests and AP tests, the results of those tests, choosing colleges and writing the applications turned Grace into someone I didn’t know at times. I found myself just staring at her, wondering who this person was and what happened to her self-confidence and the notion that she was all grown-up. Why is she crying over things that are easily rectified? Peer pressure of how others did on tests and the colleges they chose magnified everything and brought out every mood you can imagine. One minute I would hear, “I need your help.” The next, “I don’t need your help. I’m 17!”  Sometimes, not long after being told what I hadn’t done for her, I would be asked to pick up flowers for a friend at school or purchase snacks for a class party. I would find my face scrunched up in confusion wondering, “What is happening?” Then I remembered—senioritis.

At this writing, graduation has not yet happened. She will work over the summer before heading off to the West Coast for college. It will be a summer filled with more, “I need your help,” “I don’t need your help” and “You are not helping me.”  And possibly even a few, “You ruin my life!” There will be incidentals and “ask-a-dentals” (as she used to say). She will have endless questions about the process to move her to college. I understand her need to know, but I have a need to not be asked about it every 10 minutes! Parents of future seniors, I am just warning you—it’s going to hit you like a train.

I am not letting this final high school chapter get to me too much because I know this, too, shall pass. Paige gave me a hard time, but we made it through. She likes me now. Soon, I will be back here writing a sob story after my baby bird has flown away and my nest is empty.

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