Yesterday was the first day of summer for both of my girls. I’d driven them both up to LA where Margaret is going to stay for the summer after the last day of school. Finally, I had some peace to focus on work projects. I should have been ecstatic.
But I wasn’t. Instead, I felt strangely unsettled.
I could tell the last day of school was a bittersweet day for her. She was finishing her first year at the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA). It was an amazing year for her. Like all good things, she didn’t want it to end. Even for summer vacation. I couldn’t relate. I liked school a lot as a kid, but summer vacation always upstaged academia for me. Still, I’m a mom, so I tried to help her see it as hitting the pause button on a favorite YouTube video, a very temporary diversion in her 6-year journey there. But, of course, my attempts at assuaging her with hokey, custom-lyric songs were met with that Medusa-like stare I have come to know means “Just stop mom!” BTW, I have documented proof that those songs worked well when she was a five and six. Sadly, she’s become a tough audience over the years.
Part of her sadness was that OCSA went far beyond our expectations. I honestly can’t speak highly enough of that institution – and I’m someone who pretty much finds something wrong with everything. I’m not suggesting it’s a perfectly run school – and I did my fair share of ranting about minor things, mainly because, look, when you’re really good at something, why not share your gift with those around you? But the most important thing is that Margaret is hooked. And I’m over the moon that she’s hooked on school and not something destructive like drugs. Or burning bamboo shoots. Or stepping on leopard slugs. As you can see, things could really be far worse.
So back to why I felt unsettled rather than ecstatic. I’m not exactly sure why. I’ve blogged previously about how I’m not a helicopter parent. When she is here, I’m not micromanaging her. But it’s something about the fact that she’s physically nearby – no further than a 10-mile drive at any given time – that gives me reassurance, albeit false. For the next 5 ½ weeks, she’s an hour and a half away (if traffic is light). If she needed me, I wouldn’t be there for her physically until it’s potentially too late. I’ve never felt this way before. And it just makes me unsettled.
Right before I wrote this post, I read an article about John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. By now, most of us have heard Amazon is purchasing the healthy food giant. The article quotes Mackey as saying, “There will be no one that ever loves Whole Foods Market as much as I love it. But building a business is a little bit like having children and watching the children grow up…you hope your child is healthy, you hope your child is happy and you hope your child has integrity and does the right thing…” This hit me right in the gut. It’s exactly how I feel, and I suspect every parent feels about their children.
Thankfully, Margaret is only gone for the summer. I have another 5 years before she officially flies the coop and heads off to college and then career, marriage, family, etc. And just in our phone call today she shared more with me than she does in a week, literally talked my head off – and she’s NOT a phone person – which was a HUGE “note-to-self” learning moment. But there’s also this rain cloud above me that is following me around, subtly reminding me that one day, she will be living elsewhere, on her own, for good. And just as John Mackey is trying to do with his baby, I will hope beyond measure that she has all the tools she needs to navigate this sometimes insane but also wonderful, wide world – and remain true to who she is at her core.
Then again, it might just be easier to “homeschool” her for college and postgraduate school. There are programs for that, right? 😊