Recently I was invited to a relative’s high school graduation. Sitting there watching the anxiety in the graduates’ faces and the exuberance of the parents sitting next to me made me recall my own feelings and experiences with my high school senior just a few years back.
In my daughter Elissa’s senior year at school there were many phone calls to me at work, “Dad, I want to go and see the baseball game tonight at the school.” This was her way of asking me if I can drive her. It would be a lot of driving for me since I was freelancing at the time in Hauppauge which would mean me driving west 20 miles, picking her up from home and then coming back east to Huntington where her school is… during rush hour… for a total of 60 miles. I said yes. You see, it was June, school was almost over and these moments, moments of a parent doing these parental everyday activities, activities that at many times seem laborious and requirements of parenthood seem to be coming to an end.
My wife and I were going through many “lasts.” Our last meet-the-teacher night. Our last school step team performance. Our last PTA meeting. I’m not saying this in a joyful, “yeah, we’re free!” sort of way. Sure the school will always be there which we can visit any time but our daughter won’t be there. She would have moved on to the next stage of her life… a more independent life, and we as dutiful parents and a comforting routine, will be left behind.
Senior year in high school is a season of change and stress. It’s about studying for your SATs and ACTs, taking the exams getting your score, studying some more and taking the exams again. She was enrolled in two AP classes and three honors classes. We visited 15 colleges in seven states. Later that month it was about senior week and prom.
She passed her road test that month and now I hear, “Dad, can I have a car?” “No,” I said. “I didn’t get one at 17 and you aren’t either!” “But all the seniors at school have one,” she informs me. “No one takes the school bus.” I relented and said, “well, you can drive the Jeep.” “No thanks,” she said. The Jeep is 10 years old, and a senior has her standards.
On our way to the baseball game Elissa asked me why I said yes so easily to her request this time. Reminiscing I said, “Because I enjoy my conversations with you in the car.” The truth is I was trying to stretch our time together and enjoy every school moment left. “I hope later on in your life you’ll reflect on these car trips and remember our conversations.” “Dad, there is nothing worth remembering about these conversations.”
She didn’t realize that it wasn’t about the subject matter that we were sharing but rather about our time together.
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