As we count down the days until the end of our daughter’s junior year, I find myself questioning my eagerness. Do I really want to wish this time away? Am I ready to face the reality of her last year of high school and the end of our comfort at having her under our roof? Is it okay for me to look forward to getting through this incredibly demanding year so we can all breathe a little easier? My emotions are mixed. While I feel as though I am ready for this rigorous, challenging and eventful year to be over, part of me is struggling to hold on to each and every moment.We are immersed in her junior year; yes, you read that correctly, we have discovered that while she still has one foot in our cozy family nest, the other is already on its way out. It is a time of delicate balance and the collective we is straddling two worlds. While it is indeed her junior year, our family is going through the ups and downs and in-betweens of this pivotal year, together.
Since September, I have found myself reminiscing on her early years, when every day seemed to bring a first; her first smile, the sound of those first babbles that morphed into words, the attempts to Commando crawl, the first time she sprung herself from the confines and safety of her crib, the first day of Kindergarten. We would eagerly pull out the baby book and take note of those exciting milestones. Newborn, infant, toddler, preschool, school age and now a group of stages that are not clearly defined—teenager, young adult, adult. None of these post-school tags seem to accurately describe our junior.
At times, I am reminded that she is indeed a teenager who still needs guidance and life lessons, although she would beg to differ—adamantly! On the other hand, I marvel at the way she handles herself and approaches the demands of a childhood that seems so much more complex and dynamic than ours. Is she ready for the next step? Have we done our job as parents in preparing her to take on the world without us?
I want to pull out that baby book again and write about all her firsts that are happening right now because she is making them happen: taking the SATs, getting her driver’s license, preparing for AP exams, visiting colleges, writing her college essays, meeting application deadlines, traveling abroad without her family. She is hitting all these milestones and accomplishments while working hard at a demanding academic, athletic and extracurricular schedule. It’s all a balancing act as she manages these responsibilities while carving out time to enjoy being a teenager.
For the moment, our nest is still intact. I can feel the pulses of it changing, and in the not-too- distant future it will be incredibly different. I like to think that I can kick back and let it all happen, soaking in all of the emotions, changes and milestones that are making us all feel a bit uneasy. Maybe it is the uneasiness that has pushed me to take the time to not only try to figure this out, but also allow it to take its natural course and remind me to be present. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Half in, half out—she’s getting ready to fly.