When I graduated from Philadelphia's St. Hubert's Catholic High School for Girls in 1969, "Senior Week" was the week you went to work. By 1988, when my daughter graduated from my alma mater, Senior Week had become a tradition whereby new graduates headed for Wildwood in droves for a week of bacchanalia. Disturbing stories filtered back to the City regarding the drinking, all night parties, skinny-dipping, and other activities which tend to make the mother of a daughter pale. I resolved that my sheltered, Catholic-school-educated daughter was not going to be permitted to take off for a week of unsupervised debauchery.
But, a month or so before graduation, my only child informed me that she was going on a senior week trip to the shore and paying for it with her earnings from her part-time job at McDonald's. Well, I told her she most certainly was not, and an argument ensued, which I lost. I reluctantly consented, ruing the day we urged her to get a job. I realized I couldn't keep her "down on the farm" once senior fever had struck.
While this would be her first trip away with no adult supervision, I had raised her to be independent and responsible, and wasn't this the time to find out if I had succeeded? Over her high school years she had shown that she was (basically) level-headed and mature, as were most of her close friends, and I told myself had no reason to fear this rite of passage.
She left the day after her graduation party, and it was almost like sending a bride off on a honeymoon. I knew when the car disappeared around the corner, the person I knew as my daughter might never return, replaced by someone with a totally different perception of the world and her place in it.
We tried not to make her departure maudlin, even though I was still feeling the pangs of watching her walk down the aisle in her graduation gown a few days before. My only advice to her was to "have a good time, but use that pretty little head of yours." She didn't get off that easy with my mother who gave both her and her girlfriend the "you know what we expect of you" speech.
Although exhausted after cleaning up after the party the day before, neither I nor my husband could sleep, but we wouldn't admit for hours that we were fretting about her. We told ourselves that she couldn't be doing anything worse than we did at her age, but reveries of our own adolescent antics proved anything but reassuring.
As the week went on, she called a few times to let us know she was alive and well, "on the boards" every night and having an "awesome" time. My apprehension gave way to passive acceptance that my daughter and I were about to establish a more mature relationship, one that would hopefully develop into a womanly friendship in time.
As I watched a helium-filled "Class of 88" balloon float through my house that week and stubbornly head toward an open window, the comparison to a teenager trying to fly the coop could not be ignored. I rescued that balloon several times from drifting outside, recognizing that children are harder to catch.
I now knew that letting her go away alone was the test of whether she was capable of handling herself in a manner reflective of the values we had tried to instill in her. I told myself that 17 years of guidance, discipline and love had created a sensible human being who knew how to handle herself with confidence, common sense and self-respect.
I knew she was ready.
I knew it was time to let her go.
But that didn't mean that I didn't wander over to the collage I had created on the wall consisting of pictures of her growing up and programs and props from shows she'd been in and need to flick away a tear because not only was this all over for her, but for me as well.
It didn't mean that I didn't ache when I realized that college and adulthood were going to present challenges to her that she would need to get through without my help.
It didn't mean that when one of the old props fell from the wall that I didn't look at the clock to see what time it was and wonder what horrendous thing had just happened to my baby.
It didn't mean that she wouldn't always be that little pink cherub I gave birth to in 1970 no matter how old she was.
And it didn't mean that she wouldn't have to clean her room when she came home.
Published by Patricia Sicilia
A Domestic Travel Featured Contributor, Patricia Sicilia s wordsmithing began at age 9 when, after reading a book way too old for her, she told her mother I m retiring to my boudoir. Freelancing for over 38... View profile
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