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Just Another First

I couldn’t believe it was happening. As the inevitable got closer and closer, my instinct was to run the other way. Go somewhere and hide. Pretend it wasn’t real. I just didn’t want to face it. Ever been there?

For me, the inevitable is my daughter graduating from high school. Everyone tells you how quickly time flies as a parent, especially the high school years. Man, is that true.

I can still remember walking into our house for the first time with my baby girl. She was so tiny and smelled like Johnson’s baby lotion. As I stood there with this new life in my arms, I thought, “Now what do I do?” I didn’t even know where to put her! The crib? The swing? The high chair? Do I just hold her? It was my first time being a mom, and I was clueless. Eventually, I figured things out like we all do. . .trial and error. Isn’t that what parenting is all about? Now Hope is about to graduate, step out of our home and take up a new residence in college. So that’s the plan. Graduation then college. But how do I wrap my mind, heart, and arms around this next first?

Honestly, I’ve never handled the thought of her graduating very well. I’m not a big fan of change.

There’s this quilt ceremony my church does every Mother’s Day, and I hate it! The idea behind it is lovely… a quilt made by one of our church members with the high school senior’s confirmation verse sewn on it to keep them warm and remember their faith roots while in their dorm room at college. So nice! So emotional! From the time Hope was born, I’ve dreaded the day when I have to be the mom standing in front of the congregation watching my daughter receive her quilt. They explain how someone has been making the quilt all year long and praying for the graduate with every stitch. This is when the tears start welling up and I get that huge lump in the back of my throat. Then they have the parents wrap the quilt around their “child” and say something sweet to each other. At this point I’m bawling! Every year I’ve watched this, I look at Hope and desperately cry, “You can’t leave me! You can’t graduate and go off to college!” And Hope just looks back and says, “It’s going to be okay, mom.” Until last year.

As I thought about Hope getting ready to head into her senior year at that point, something changed. Something in me finally clicked and realized those were not the words she need to hear from her me. While I was wondering out loud how I was going to be okay without her at home anymore, she silently pondering the same thing. She needed her mom to stop whining and start encouraging her. To tell her that this next inevitable step was going to be okay. Scary. Exciting. And okay. She need me to be what I’ve always been… her cheerleader.

I used to get so excited about Hope’s firsts. . .rolling over, crawling, walking, riding a bike, making friends, making good choices. I would do cartwheels when she accomplished these things and many more. Other firsts were a little more challenging. . .glasses, braces, puberty, driving. . .but we celebrated those as well. Some actually turned out to be not so bad. I mean having her to help chauffeur my younger son around has been awesome! Scary at first, but actually a good thing. Why should graduating and going off to college be any different? What if instead of being sad about this next first, I treat it like just another first, and get excited.

So that’s how I’ve wrapped my heart around this next first in Hope’s life. With enthusiasm. You know what has happened? Joy. I truly feel joyful as I think about this next stage. I mean, since she’s been born, I’ve prayed for her to be a strong woman in the Lord, why would I get in the way of that? I know He has big, awesome plans for her, and I’m going to be there cheering for her as they unfold.

Graduation? It’s just another first.

BTW, I wore waterproof mascara to the quilt ceremony on Mother’s Day… and I survived!