The other night I was looking at old pictures and videos with my daughter, who about a week and a half ago, graduated from high school. She will be 18 next Saturday & I’ve gotten rather reflective the past few weeks. When I turned 18 I was worried about getting drafted. Not because I had a legitimate reason but because my grandma worried about EVERYTHING, and on the list of worries I was genetically pre-disposed to when I turned 18, was the draft. (I spent the earlier part of my childhood fearing attacks from “the Russians”, so logically the armed forces would need me.) I’m not sure what, if anything, my daughter worries about. I hope not much. It’s certainly not “what people will think when they see the state of my bedroom.” That I know. The photos we were looking through made me realize she has had an incredible childhood, surrounded by wonderful, interesting friends who have been there through thick & thin, family who loves her and trips to places like Paris, Barcelona and San Francisco, all of those without us. She bravely applied to 7 different universities from NW Arkansas to the east coast (Charleston). She was accepted at all but one & completely of her own accord, chose to attend Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth which completes an unusual circle since that is where my parents lived when I was conceived. I have not been back since I was in that womb. Life’s funny that way sometimes. You get right back to where you started.
Someone asked me the other day what my hopes for her were. That one is simple. That she is happy. I don’t care what she becomes, where she works, who she marries or how many children she has, if any. I just want her to be happy. I want her to live her life for herself and no one else. So far, she has done so well in this category & I couldn’t be prouder of her. We allow her to make most decisions herself & we are criticized for this often. I think it’s been instrumental in fostering her independence and giving her the confidence she needs to go off on her own. I know if we are here to fall back on, she will use us to lean on but I also know if a situation requires her to act independently of us, as many will when she ventures off to Texas, she will be well-prepared. By letting her make her own decisions, all the regrets are on her & it leaves little room to resent us for being overbearing. I will never, ever understand why people want their children to be dependent on them.
As for advice I would send her off with, I had to think on that one a while. I would like to send her off into the world with two often diametrically-opposing pieces of advice: Use good judgment & have very little fear. Sometimes these two can collide in a horrible way. Sometime in the worst way. A couple weeks ago, a group of students from the University of Arkansas were involved in a horrible boating accident on Grand Lake in OK & two of them died. The driver admitted to having 10 beers, a shot of tequila and unprescribed drugs in his system. I don’t think there’s one parent getting ready to send their kid to college who didn’t shudder at the loss of life & think, “That could be my child.” I also shuddered at the likely prison sentence facing the kid driving the boat & thought, “How awful for his parents because once our kids are gone we have no control. (In all honesty, we have very little when they’re here.) Like it or not, that could be our child too. And by “ours”, I mean both you and I, dear reader. These kids probably had very little fear as they were stepping into that boat but they sure didn’t use good judgment. Had either of these forces played out in reverse, it would have saved some families some grief. But dammit, we aren’t always there to be that voice of reason….
After Ryder graduated last week & shortly after that boat accident, we let her go to one of the lakes about an hour from our home & spend a few days on the houseboat of one of her friend’s families. Chuck called me and said, “Ryder thinks she’s going to the lake tomorrow and says you know?” He was a little surprised. I said, “Yes, I know. It’s hard, believe me. But she is going off to a city 6 hours from us in two months & we have to trust her to have good judgment. She’s made good decisions in the past & we have to trust she will again.” She made it home safely. On the way home she even turned the wheel of her car over to the friend who had the houseboat since it was raining super hard and she, unlike her friend, had never driven that curvy road before, even in good conditions. I can pretty much tell you I didn’t have that sort of judgment right before I turned 18. I trust that she will continue to make wise decisions.
Now for the fear factor. As stated before, I spent my entire childhood living with my grandma who feared EVERYTHING. At one point, I was sure I was going to contract lockjaw because I fell into a rosebush & got horribly scratched & cut. Because that’s how you get lockjaw, right? Rosebushes. I was taught to fear weather, to fear the Russians, to fear microwave ovens, to fear someone breaking into my house, to fear being kidnapped…….I could go on all night. (Oddly enough, now that I’m older, I fear very little. I’m sure it’s a subconscious rebellion against my grandma’s attempts to instill fear & therefore make me dependent on her.) I do not want my child to have fear. I want her to be consciously aware of her surroundings but I want her to explore the world, make new friends, take risks in business and life, & live life to the fullest. I don’t want her to fear taking a vacation overseas, flying in a plane, switching her major, starting a business, breaking up with a boy, etc. And when it’s time to use fear to her advantage I hope she will have the good judgment to do so.