Vail Family Matters: Conflicting feelings at graduation time
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –A year in the life of a parent may not be that momentous an achievement. But take those years and string them together – about 17 or 18 of them in a row – and you have quite a triumph. A parenting job done – or at least with much of the tough stuff left behind.
Many of my friends have children graduating from high school next week. I also have a very small companion graduating from kindergarten, and even nature seems to be celebrating.-
Although many kids go off to college dorms, thrilled to have a place wholly their own, they’ll not soon forget the privileges of the Family Marriott – particularly the meals, fresh sheets and the currency.
My son went from being raised in earthy-crunchy, environmentally green Northern California to attend school in breathtaking Montana where kids hauled dead deer in their truck beds, carried guns to class, and spit on the name of Al Gore. He was horrified by college food: I paid for a cafeteria pass, but he only used it in utter desperation. He survived on expensive sushi dinners until his money ran out, then picked at the cafeteria salad bar until he had cash again.
Montanans were just as disenchanted with him. The shock that he didn’t hunt or eat much meat at all had them very confused. California kids really are spoiled with the most magnificent and abundant produce and seafood (and wine of course, but what do college kids know about alcohol?). It’s easy to forget that not every town in the U.S. has dazzling vegan restaurants and a recycling center on each corner when you’ve lived near the San Francisco Bay. He’s back in California now.
A friend of mine has a daughter who went to U.C. Berkeley and decided to become a minimalist. She was rather tired of the materialism her parents subscribed to. Splendidly proud of herself, she took very little with her to school, only one large duffle. In the bag were her iMac, iPod, iPhone, Kindle, GPS, Oakley sunglasses, and a one-year gift certificate for free manicures and tanning. Oh, don’t forget the $3,000 bicycle on the back of her new car (a graduation present), or the $160,000 education.
Another friend, a gynecologist, has a daughter in college. He told her he would gladly pay for everything she could ever need or want as long as she stayed in school. Nine years later he is still paying for it all, including her exorbitant credit card bills, and she just persuasively negotiated another graduate degree – three more years of free-ride.
Although there are few things sweeter than raising teenagers from middle school to graduation, unless you mean accidentally cutting your thumb, pouring sea salt and lemon juice into the wound, and then having someone tee off on it, endings really do tend to be sad.-
The good news is, often there is a constant revolving door that continues to spin long after your kids go on to their own pursuits. They come back, bring their friends, obsessive girlfriends, etc., raid the fridge, sleep it off, and nevertheless need you. They still want you to fix everything, and they require your understanding, like when their friends abuse the brand new college laptop by spilling their alcoholic beverages on the keyboard or when their A’ turn into, well, less, because they didn’t really think they needed to go to class if their work was adequate (or if they had something better to do).
The truth is, whether your child scored 10 million on his SATs or is planning on attending community college, it is an immense success to usher your kids through those most formidable and fearsome years. But the gratification is accompanied by conflicting feelings.
Along with the tangible sense of pride and relief as you’re waving good-bye in the driveway (secretly coveting the free closet space you’re about to gain), there is also an overwhelming desire to have your child climb onto your lap for just one more reading of “Goodnight Moon,” one more song, one last chance to inhale the smell of them in their own room, just parent and child, before everything changes. Then, at last you can dash for their closet space.
Jill Marchione Papangelis is a freelance writer and mother of four. She lives in Edwards with her family. Send column suggestions or comments firstname.lastname@example.org.