Friday, May 26, 2017

To Michael: On Your Day Of Graduation From High School

I know today is not the end of our relationship, that you aren't being kicked out the door into adulthood, never to be welcomed back. But it's a day that represents the culmination of all the blood, sweat, and tears that have been shed for you since the day you made your debut into this world. You were born on your due date, with a relatively short labor until the very end when you made us wait 30 minutes while you took your own sweet time. But that thick dark hair, those long eyelashes, and that irresistible smile were worth the wait.

You have always been that way. Taking your time on things. Not conforming to how everyone else does it. Finding your own path that made sense to you. And not wanting to fail when you did finally try something. We would attempt to teach you new words, get you to repeat them after us. But you would sit there silently listening. We would wonder if you had even heard us. Then three days later you would use the word perfectly in a sentence. You also had excellent descriptions of the things around you, using words you knew to describe the object you didn't know. We knew exactly what you meant when you said "milk, cold door".

You were often a quiet child, reserved, with a big smile with moments of silliness. So sweet to everyone around you. When something did bother you, we often didn't know because you suffered quietly in a corner by yourself or in a heap on the floor. Your big hazel eyes and the previously noted eyelashes had teenage girls at the dude ranch where we vacationed fawning all over your three year old self. You could easily carry on a serious conversation with adults. You loved being the center of attention.

You loved people and new experiences. We found an innovative preschool that you attended three days a week. They encouraged unstructured play and led you on many excursions throughout the city. But it wasn't enough for you. You looked across the street at the kids playing at another preschool and asked if you could attend that school too. You didn't want to miss out on anyone or anything so you attended both preschools.

You were a bright kid. Academics came fairly easy to you, and we rarely had to help you with your homework. You still loved people and got along amazingly with most of your teachers and adults in general. You also loved the kids your age and yearned to be included in their groups, however, you were often challenged as to how to relate to them. You seemed to be the true definition of an old soul, and sometimes there seemed too much of a disconnect between their interests and yours. We could only hope that time would eventually shrink that gap as we watched you begin to build walls to protect your heart.

You had to learn to march to the beat of your own drum and be ok with that. You tried many sports and activities throughout elementary and middle school that kids your age were doing, and while you liked the activities, you didn't find anything that just clicked with you or that you excelled at until you went to a Christian summer camp that had a riflery segment each day. You discovered you had a natural ability at shooting targets, and although unconventional, you finally found a sport that you enjoyed and that would end up giving you the confidence that would propel you through your teen years.

In high school, academics still came fairly easy for you. You also sampled several clubs over the four years. You surprised us by dropping out of the rifle club your freshman year and eventually immersing yourself in clubs where you had to debate or give speeches in front of audiences as well as onstage activities like choir, school musicals, and plays. You had a chance to display more of that love of attention and (re?)discovered a love to entertain.

For what seemed like forever, you only claimed to have acquaintances and not friends. You kept your walls up with most and doled out your trust sparingly. You were careful who you called a friend, weighing their commitment and loyalty over time. It's been nice to see you let your walls down a little more during your senior year and let more people in. I hope they realize the gift they've been given.

You are independent, determined, and opinionated. You found a college that seems like a perfect fit for you almost 2000 miles away from me. You can't wait to spread your wings and prove yourself without me looking over your shoulder. And although perhaps unwittingly, you've been working hard at making me ready to let you go. Because while you make me laugh, you challenge me to think, and you are one of the lights of my life, you also make me want to pull my hair out, scream, cry and slam doors.

And that's a good thing I guess. I need some kind of reason to let you go. And I know down deep you will be fine without me. So maybe that's what I'm fighting against. YOU WILL BE FINE WITHOUT ME.

(I just don't know if I will be fine without you.)

Loving you no matter what,

Your not-always-able-to-keep-her-emotions-intact mom