You know that scene from Father of the Bride? The one where Annie tells her father, George (played so perfectly by the incredibly talented Steve Martin), that she is getting married. Annie at the age of 24 or so is sitting across the table from her parents and begins to describe how she and her fiancé met. And then, transformed in her father’s wistful gaze, Annie at age six finishes telling the story of how Bryan proposed. It’s such a precious, sweet scene and really isn’t that how any parent feels when their child is doing something so huge and life-altering?
I had one of those moments today in the University College advisement meeting. Shari, our capable advisor, was sitting behind her L-shaped desk with a file folder of my daughter’s admission information open in front of her. Parents were encouraged to attend this meeting, but urged to be there as support rather than direction. My adult daughter (yes, I have to remind myself that 18 is considered an adult) sat on the opposite side of the desk with her orientation notebook in her lap. Tripp and I sat off to the side. Shari then began asking her specific questions about her high school curriculum and grades. Kelsey responded with the appropriate answers – she amazes me with her self-assurance and confidence that child.
After getting all the prerequisite information out of the way, Shari began to discuss Kelsey’s class selection process. AP test scores, foreign language and math assessments all figured into the courses that Shari would advise. That’s about the time when I had my out-of-body (er, Father of the Bride) experience. The child that sat next to me discussing her future was not the engaging, 18 year-old young woman that Tripp and I watched walk across the stage at graduation. But rather the sweet, shy little girl that we walked into Mrs. Post’s Kindergarten class with her Pocahontas backpack. Shari asked, “So Kelsey I see your major is Psychology and you need three hours of either Trigonometry or Pre-Calculus. Which Math track would you prefer?” I watched as my sweet, little kindergartener (with her enormous brown eyes and shy little voice reply, “I did much better in Trig in high school, so I think that would be a better fit for me.”
What does this child know about the difference between Trig and Calc?
I’m going to admit right now that as far as parenting goes, this has to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Not because Kelsey wasn’t 100% percent right on with her answer. But because I am trusting that this Shari woman is going to make sure that my baby is in exactly the perfect class 100% of the time. That someone over there at the University College loves and adores this precious child as much as I do. That someone in the advisement office wants her to be happy and fulfilled. And never get hurt. And never be scared. And never feel alone.
I just had to sit there quietly and watch and trust that that Master’s of Education diploma on Shari’s wall qualified her to champion the future of my child and guide her into the appropriate courses.
God, this is so hard.
As we walked through the campus today between appointments, I realized that this experience is going to be Kelsey’s alone. She will have to navigate from hall to hall to find her classes and manage her time. She will decide when and where she wants to eat lunch. When and if she wants to do laundry. She’s done all this before in school many times (well, except for the laundry part). But this will be the first day of a new school that I won’t be there afterwards to pick her up and ask how her day was. She won’t sit at the bar and tell me how stressful it was finding her classrooms and how precisely she has to time her locker visits so that she can make it from class to class.
Letting go sucks. It is an huge pill to swallow and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t choking on it a little today.
As it turned out, Shari did a fine job of getting Kelsey into the right classes. Kelsey did the actual enrollment on her own and mastered the online enrollment program with ease (which comes as no surprise really). And at the end of the day, Kelsey was happy with her course selections and felt comfortable with her course load. It all worked out.
I have come to realize that the person I need to trust is my own, incredible daughter. And I can do this. I can do this because Kelsey is intelligent and self-reliant. I can do this because she still comes to me (and Tripp) for advice. I can do this because she still listens to our input. I can do this because she is so excited and so happy.
She can do this.
Therefore, I can do this.