It's only one more week -- and not even a full week according to the calendar -- just five more days. And although it's been two years since I spent those early days in June closing out the school year, I vividly remember the mishmash -- and mismatch -- of feelings as a school year ends. On one hand, you can't wait for it to be over so summer vacation can begin. On the other hand, there is so much to be accomplished that those few days don't seem like nearly enough time to get it all done.
And on top of it all is the suddenly palpable awareness of the passage of time. We don't think about time all that much as it ticks by in minutes, hours and days, but there's something about transition times that makes it impossible not to consider it.
My daughter is finishing her sophomore year of high school. Two short years ago, she was finishing middle school, and in two years that I'm sure will fly by just as quickly, she will be a high school graduate. I can barely imagine it, and quite honestly, I don't really try too hard to do so because when I do, the tears come quickly as I think about how much life will change.
Fortunately, it changes slowly -- ticking by in minutes, hours and days -- although in retrospect it seems to have gone by much faster. There are lots of milestones between now and that high school graduation. This summer, she'll spend her days accumulating volunteer hours at the day care center where she used to attend summer camp. She'll be one of the big people in charge of tie dying tee shirts, setting up water days and "chaperoning" field trips instead of one of the little ones participating in them. By the middle of June, if all goes according to plan, I won't even have to drop her off. She'll have her license and the capability of transporting herself. She'll go away to camp with her basketball team -- off to a college I'll see only in the pictures she takes when she's there on her own with a group of peers. But that's okay. If it makes her list, we'll see it together sometime over the next two years as she begins to narrow her college search and make more focused plans for her future.
These are good things. I'd be lying if I said they didn't make me sad, but they also fill me with pride. We've raised her with these ends in mind -- to be independent and responsible and to strike out on her own in directions that fascinate her. To be her own person.
But between now and the end of this week, Miss Independent has to get through finals, presentations and end-of-year good-byes. In order to do this, she'll practice the same skills she'll need to be successful in college -- balancing study time with sleep and leisure, determining what to do when and what needs to just wait until school obligations are finished.
And for my part, I'll continue to take baby steps back, giving her space to make those determinations for herself and stepping in only when she needs me to. Sometimes she'll know she needs me, and other times, I'll need to insert myself, catching her when she wobbles but before she hits the ground.
And when you think about it, regardless of how old they are, that's really what parenting is all about.