I will always remember my daughter's first day of pre-school (and not just because her grandmother has a "Kodak moment" permanently displayed on the refrigerator). It was fifteen and a half years ago. My daughter was wearing an adorable red dress, lacy ankle socks and mary janes, a fuzzy jacket with a big felt dachshund on it. She had a new lunchbox and a new backpack. She was very pleased with herself. And, I was really keeping it together.
Until I wasn't.
We went into her classroom with all the other parents and (really tiny) students. The teacher was warm and welcoming; the room filled with light, a reading area, a play kitchen, art supplies, lilliputian tables and chairs — and a row of cubbies and coat hooks with each child's name neatly printed and taped above.
That's when I lost it.
It was the first of many "reality checks." My daughter, this adorable little blond extension of myself, was going to school. Granted, homework and tests were still many years off. But, starting school, any sort of school, was a major milestone. My baby was growing up. She would someday, if not exactly soon, be grown up.
It didn't take much to make me weepy.
Fast forward to the final three weeks of senior year. Milestone reality checks are practically daily events at this point. Happily, I've become quite expert at holding back the tears. (Good thing. I mean, sheesh, I embarrass my daughter enough without welling up every twenty minutes.)
Nevertheless, I'm still reeling a bit.
Visiting colleges — last spring and this fall — may have been the start of it. But, those were planned events. There were tours to take, questions to ask. Big deals, certainly, but not the sudden, catch your breath, moments of truth I'm talking about.
For example, we went to Nordstrom Rack after an accepted student overnight in February. Halfway between "Designer Jeans" and "Outerwear," all 50% off btw, my daughter turned and casually mentioned "If I go there, I start six months from tomorrow."
It knocked the wind out of me.
After careful consideration, in about mid-April, my daughter committed to one of the schools that had accepted her. I sent them her registration deposit.
Then, more recently, they published next year's academic calendar. I wrote "Parents' Weekend" in my datebook, taking a few minutes to count just how many weeks there will be between that and "Drop Off For Freshman Orientation."
Now, Southwest has opened up reservations for November and December. I just booked my daughter's flights for Thanksgiving.
You guessed it. Reality check!
In that simple act (completed online in maybe four minutes), I ensured that (a) she'll have tickets home and back and (b) we locked in the best fares. But, there's so much more to it than that. Think about it. If my daughter needs (and now has) tickets to fly home for Thanksgiving, that means she is actually going to be leaving me and living on a college campus some 700 miles from here for 98 days leading up to said great American holiday.
At least, this Thanksgiving, I can count on having something to be thankful for.
And, I'm going to try, really hard, not to cry.
If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.