Author reflects on raising high-school graduate

I’ve always loved books. Want to travel to distant places? Read a book. Want to stretch your imagination? Read a book. Want to learn something? Yep, read a book (or two, or three . . .). Growing up, my dad’s favorite saying was “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you ever find time to do it over?” I’ve always tried to do things right the first time, because I’m simply too lazy to do them over. So naturally, when I found myself pregnant with my daughter, I turned to books. I needed to do this right.

Specifically, I relied on the “What to Expect” books. My copy of the “WTE When You’re Pregnant” was well-thumbed, dogeared, highlighted, and underlined. It did frustrate me, however, since it insisted that when I went into labor, I’d just know it was labor. I wanted more specifics! How was it going to feel, how long would it last, you know, what was I to expect? The suspense was nearly lethal! It did not inform me that doing squats to induce labor is really not a smart idea, and should never be performed when one is alone. I attempted to do so with my back against the hall closet door and got stuck in

the lowest position. Zero stars, do not recommend and don’t try this at home.

After she was born (and yes, as it turned out, I WAS able to recognize labor on my own), I relied on the “WTE The First Year.” I checked off milestones and noted dates in the margins. I agonized over whether we were late or not. One thing that the book forgot to mention was that if you use a baby hairbrush to try to gently remove cradle cap, Baby’s hair will come off with it. I called my mother-in-law in hysterics, wondering how long Darling Daughter could wear hats before Darling Hubby would figure out that something was wrong. Thankfully, it did indeed grow back, and no hats were needed.

The book also didn’t mention that sometimes, when you least expected it, you’d be able to look at your beautiful baby’s face in just the right light and be able to catch a fleeting glimpse of what they’d look like when they were grown up. When it happened with Darling Daughter, it took my breath away. I tried to see that glimpse time and again, but it always eluded me after that day.

“What to Expect: The Toddler Years” was also an invaluable resource. By then, I was getting a little more confident in my abilities and even had Darling Son to add a little extra excitement. This book really should add that, when your daughter uses Sharpie markers to turn your son into a zebra, baby wipes do a great job of removing ink. Resources for what to do when your child cuts her own hair for the first time after watching Mulan would be excellent. It’s a good thing I wasn’t relying on the books as much anymore, because after The Toddler Years, there aren’t any more books.

Navigating kindergarten and grade school? You’re on your own. There sure as shooting wasn’t a “What To Expect: The Teenage Years.” That one sure would have been helpful, if for no other reason than to assure myself that I wasn’t going insane. It was, however, getting easier and easier to see that grownup in my daughter’s face.

“What To Expect: Their Senior Year” would have been a real help as well. From navigating senior pictures to graduation announcements, some guidelines for first-time parents to follow would probably eliminate much unnecessary angst at home. That Senior year, though, my grown-up daughter looked at me every day, usually with the same sparkle she’d had in her eyes when she was tiny. Gone are the chubby baby cheeks and tiny starfish hands, replaced by a lovely face set with purpose and graceful, capable fingers.

I always tell people that every stage of my children’s lives has been my favorite. I loved them when they were tiny little noodles and stayed where I put them. I loved watching them start to be aware and explore. I mostly loved the Toddler phase, where they had the skills to learn how to be little humans. The grade school years, where they learned so much every day, and sometimes struggled to process it all. Those awkward middle school years, where they were learning even more about being human. And now, I love their high school years, where they’re really figuring out who they are and what they’re

going to do with all of that life they have.

And now, Darling Daughter is grown up, graduated, ready to spread her wings and fly. It takes my breath away to know that my tiny baby has become this strong, beautiful woman. This stage is my favorite of hers now, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Congratulations to all of you graduates, congratulations to all of you parents, and congratulations to all of you life travelers starting the next thing. May your next step be blessed.

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