Senior Year: The Bittersweet Lasts

13. That's the number of years I've spent trying to get my child out the door for school. She entered the local school district at the age of four. She is now in her final year, and nothing has changed. When she was little, I would sometimes tug off her pajamas and hand her that day's clothes. My futile attempt to speed things up. She generally chose to remain naked. 

Now, she simply doesn't get out of bed. I send the dogs in. They hop onto her bed and step all over her, overjoyed, in that canine sort of way, that she exists and once again lived through the night. Grover, in particular, cares not where his paws land. Eventually, once she's crossed the line into "no way to get to school on time," she gets up. Barely, and with a slowness that makes her father's head explode, but she gets up. One of my favorite threats: "leave on time or . . . I'll DRIVE YOU!"  Having your mom drop you off at school might be the worst thing that can happen to a senior. 

Sometimes, I try a gentler approach. I lean over her and hug her while she's still tucked under her fuzzy comforter, her body still warm from sleep. I rub her back. I tell her that she'd really be doing me a solid if she'd simply get up. Sometimes, I wish I could hold her all day. On one of those recent mornings, I asked her if she needed to jump in the shower before school. Because of her incredibly thick, curly hair, daily washing of her considerable locks is not recommended. The shower is not a given, unless there is some possibility that a boy might come within an arm's length of her - and then the legs must be shaved, evidently. 

"Do you need a shower?" I asked. 

"Do I stink?" She asked the question in earnest. She'd had a show choir rehearsal the day before; some days, the dancing is more rigorous than others.

I leaned down and pressed my face against her cheek. "You smell like my baby," I said. She sighed. My feedback was not helpful.

Perhaps it's just the sentimentality talking, but for me, that scent has not changed. That 17-year-old head, full of show tunes and boys and tacos is no different from the newborn head against which I pressed my lips in the hospital. I remember being nervous when my daughter was in the nursery with the other newborns. Because I did not create her and had not spent nine months with her in my womb, I was worried that I wouldn't recognize her when I went to see her after visiting her birthmom. But I knew her. I have always known her.

My daughter leaves for college in roughly 10 months. I have already suggested to her that she not take any early-morning classes if she can help it. 

Other parents who've been in my shoes tell me that this is the year of "lasts" and "last firsts." Last first-day-of-school photo. Last high school Homecoming dance. My daughter landed a lead in the school musical. I've thrown myself into the role of parent coordinator because . . . it's my last. I've had a lot of fun doing it, though. I built a headshot display out of painted PVC piping. I never thought I'd utter the words, "I own a ratchet-style PVC pipe cutter." And yet here we are. A freshman mom is shadowing me so that she and other moms can take over next year (just like other moms showed me the ropes). I'd say "parent" but, I mean, we all know it'll be the moms. 

I'm doing my best to be present and mindful as my daughter winds her way through her senior year of high school. The day when I don't hear singing coming from the room at the end of the hall . . . it's coming all too soon, and I don't know what to do with those feelings. Sometimes, in the car, we sing soundtracks together. We particularly love Hamilton, but I always leave the rap part in "Satisfied" to her:

It's the feeling of freedom, of seeing the light
It's Ben Franklin with a key and a kite
You see it right?

My middle sister once said to me, "I'm raising my kids to fly." We were having a conversation about holding onto children too tightly. I feel the same way. I want to enjoy the lasts and then watch my daughter fly. She's becoming more independent, though I'm always just a text away when she forgets a script she needs for rehearsal or when she needs that taco money. The other day she held up two pairs of over-priced sneakers and asked me which one she should wear. I pointed to a pair - I mean, they were both white, so I didn't feel terribly invested in this whole scene. Later, I saw the pair I had chosen on the floor. I wasn't offended. I'm fine with my opinion on the little things in life holding little weight.

At the end-of-year music banquet in May, my daughter received an award for "building confidence." She received the award for building up people around her. Her teachers have always said that she talks way too much but also that she is kind to everyone. That's just the type of human that I'd hoped to send out into the world. With her hazel eyes that turn magic in the sun to curls so wild that a boy once got his hand stuck in there, my daughter is physically beautiful. Having a good heart, though? Priceless.

My daughter already knows that there will be a scene when we move her into her dorm room next fall (I hope her future roommate has a high tolerance for clutter). She plans to study Musical Theatre. Whether her college is an hour away or six hours away, I plan to cry all the way home regardless. Once my tears have dried, I will watch my baby soar. 


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