Wednesday, July 30, 2014

And We Always Will Be



























Pain pays the income of each precious thing. ~William Shakespeare

Earlier this summer, our 17-year-old daughter climbed into a VW van with three friends and drove down to Oregon to attend one of our area's seminal hippy-dippy, peace and love, arts and camping happenings called Oregon Country Fair. I kissed her goodbye and missed her, but it was with the ease I've come feel about her being away from us overnight, even for nights at a time, be it sleepovers, summer camps, or music festivals. A few years back, when she was 15, we put her on a plane bound for Europe with a friend, and while the thought of my child making her way through airport transfers halfway around the globe was nerve-wracking, I was also able to relax knowing that there was a trusted adult, my wife's girlhood best friend, waiting for her at the end of her journey, almost as if she'd never left home.

A few days ago, we put our daughter on a plane that carried her away to her future. Oh, she'll be back before the end of summer from this intensive Shakespeare performance seminar in Ashland, Oregon, home of the renowned Shakespearean festival, but her plan, as it has been since before middle school, is to graduate at the end of the coming school year, then enroll in a university or conservatory with a BFA program that will prepare her for her chosen career as a Shakespearean actress. It feels different this time, her going away for professional training at a university, even if it really isn't too much farther away than Eugene where she was with her friends only a few weeks ago. There's been a melancholy here in our apartment with just my wife and me, but also a sense of familial joy in knowing that our girl is, by her own reports, so far thrilled with this adventure.

As a baby, I used to look at her and tell myself that she will grow up, that she, in fact, was already grown up. As I played with her, I tried to stay in the moment, but to also never be too far from the certain knowledge that here was a baby, then toddler, then a bigger girl, then a teen, then a young woman, then a woman of the world. I've tried to see not only all the ages she had ever been, but also all the ages she was going to be. I didn't make plans for her, exactly, but rather tried to pre-accept those  things that would make her life like that of all humans: ups and downs, love and loss, joy and pain. I'm not one of those fathers who is particularly freaked out, for instance, by her sexuality because I've tried to always know that it was there, knowing that my girl would experience crushes, romance, sex, and love like women do. Maybe that's why I've always liked the boys she's liked.

I suppose that her being away this time is different because she herself is aware that it is sort of a practice run for what will be coming two Septembers from now, after which, if she's anything like me, we'll enter a phase during which we'll only live together for a few months out of the year, then, perhaps only for the holidays. I've always known this was true, but it does help me better empathize with my own parents who didn't always "let go" as easily as I'd wished. I have on a few occasions selfishly dropped the idea of taking a "gap year" where she could keep living with us and get a job, but she's having none of it, as I knew she wouldn't. I'm quite proud that my baby is also a young woman who knows what she wants from life and is ready, nerves and all, to go out and try to make it happen.

Going in, we all know that the job isn't to raise a child, but rather to raise an adult, and that job is one of those blessing-curses like "May you live in interesting times" or "May all your dreams come true." She has always been this 17-year-old who packs her bags and heads off in to the world just as she will always be that baby, that toddler, that little girl, and that teen. As I sit here this morning, mooning back over things, I recognize the hubris in believing that any of us "raise" children any more than they raise us. I see now that we're fellow travelers, my daughter and I, and we always have been. And we always will be.



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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

An awesome Dad you are, Tom!

Grace said...

Beautiful.

francifularts said...

With my son going off to college in 6 weeks, I can very much relate to this post! My son is mature and rational! He's not a devil may care, throw caution to the winds kind of guy. I know there are many new things he will be navigating, but I also trust in his ability to make good choices. And if he stumbles, that's an important learning experience too. I have been thinking sadly about his leaving for several months. I am really going to miss him. However...I take consolation in the knowledge that he's so excited to begin studying mechanical engineering. He's loved robots since he was three, and he's going to actually have the opportunities to design and build new technologies that he's dreamed of for so long! It's hard to imagine that a person that's been part of my daily life for the last nineteen years is going to become only an occasional visitor in my home/life. So now I get to be proud of him and cheer him on from a distance, but that's also a good thing as it proves he's an adult, and I've done my job as a parent. My other son is starting high school and is definitely not a "finished product" yet...so my nest is not going to be completely empty!

francifularts said...

With my son going off to college in 6 weeks, I can very much relate to this post! My son is mature and rational! He's not a devil may care, throw caution to the winds kind of guy. I know there are many new things he will be navigating, but I also trust in his ability to make good choices. And if he stumbles, that's an important learning experience too. I have been thinking sadly about his leaving for several months. I am really going to miss him. However...I take consolation in the knowledge that he's so excited to begin studying mechanical engineering. He's loved robots since he was three, and he's going to actually have the opportunities to design and build new technologies that he's dreamed of for so long! It's hard to imagine that a person that's been part of my daily life for the last nineteen years is going to become only an occasional visitor in my home/life. So now I get to be proud of him and cheer him on from a distance, but that's also a good thing as it proves he's an adult, and I've done my job as a parent. My other son is starting high school and is definitely not a "finished product" yet...so my nest is not going to be completely empty!

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