Readers may remember that my daughter is graduating this year. Like many parents, graduation is the end and the beginning. First of all, I have to say I am shocked! What happened? How did we get here? Am I really that old? The list goes on and it never, really, gets better!
I have been ruminating about where the last 18 years disappeared to, and quite frankly I have no idea. For much of that time, I have lived here in Beijing, while my daughter has been here, Shenzhen, Massachusetts, and for the last six years in Kuala Lumpur – a true TCK (Third Culture Kid). Back to my real story – the rites of passage and graduation.
It always interested me that Graduation is actually called Commencement. While one word is “the end,” the other is “the beginning” and therein lies the reality. It is the end, the end of the long slog through 12+ years of schooling, exams, tests, applications and other time marking events. It is the beginning of a new phase in one’s life. While I am not a fan of the hype around graduation ceremonies from one grade to the next, this one; the end of high school marks a whole new era for our children. It is one of those Coming of Age rituals that truly mark new beginnings.
Her Grad-ment is also followed closely by another big event – her 18th Birthday; another one of those important Rites of Passage from childhood to adulthood. Still stunned as I write this, as I really want to go back in time, but alas, that is NOT going to happen.
What does this all mean? Even though I have been in the business of helping families send their children off to college and even boarding school, it really has not prepared me for my own child. It’s really all been theoretical up to this point. The fact is reality is setting in, and yep I’m kind of freaking out, in a casual way. Not that I like this whole transition thing on a personal level. It does make one ponder all the things parental. Have I done a good job? Will she be prepared – emotionally, personally and socially? Will she be safe? What haven’t I done? There are so many questions, but that fact is that there is not much I can do about it.
Next weekend I will head off to Malaysia to see my little girl, who is not so little anymore, take the stage and commence her new life – as a Freshman in college and as an adult. She will be leaving the safe haven of high school and begin her new journey, and there is not much I can do but let go. It leaves one feeling – well sad, excited and confused.
As the day comes ever closer, I am confronted with the fact that I am not sure what to give her. What can I possibly provide her at this point? Sure words of congratulations, encouragement, and embarrassing reminisces of bygone events, but what last parting gift, of that I have no idea. Of course, she has another graduation coming in four years time. But this one, at this point in time, seems more prescient. I know that I am not alone in these feelings, many readers may have already dealt with this, but for me, this is a bit raw.
Don’t get me wrong; this journey that my daughter and I have been on has been wonderful. As a distant father, I certainly have plenty of regrets. But there is one thing I am certain about; I am a proud father who has watched his daughter struggle, challenge and grow. I often tell parents that the last year of high school kids change. They emerge into the young adult. The process of applying to university does just that. All of a sudden they feel that they have some control of their destiny and even though the possibilities are expansive, they are ready to embrace them.
The other day we were looking at course choices for next year. It was fascinating to see all the choices and think that I would like to do it all again. But here again, I had to let go and remind myself that I am not the one going off to school. At that is the point, I need to let go, and though I may have misgivings about a past I cannot change, I am excited for her. Not sure if I will shed a tear or twenty next weekend as I embrace a new world. I am still hoping we can do this together.