Don’t Blink

As a writer, I try to avoid clichés. But in parenting, and especially during graduation, clichés are everywhere:

“As one door closes, another opens…”

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life…”

“The future is in your hands…”

I feel like my own graduation, when I squirmed and sighed through clichéd speeches in that temperamental mortarboard and papery red gown, could have happened just a few years ago. Certainly not 24 years ago. I now understand why people embarrass themselves by trying to look and act young–we still feel that way. Those days of struggling through chemistry and Friday night football games feel like they just happened.

Friday night, I squirmed and sighed through another graduation ceremony, but this time as the tearful mom in the bleachers, and my oldest daughter was in the papery gown–in Winger purple. And while I tried to wrap my brain around what was happening, my head was full of clichés.

“They grow up so fast…”

“Before you know it she will be ready to leave the nest…”

“Don’t blink!”

Apparently I blinked, because I just brought home this wide eyed baby girl (7 pounds 10 ounces, 20 inches long), and now in what feels like the blink of an eye, I am watching this beautiful young woman collect her diploma, move her tassel, and toss her cap in the air.

Now I am left with another cliché: If only I could turn back the clock….

Of course I can’t, and even if I could I would never put her through some of those painful years again. But if there was a way to relive it all, I would do it in a heartbeat. Sometimes I would just take it all in, other times I would whisper in my ear (or hers) to calm the heck down because it’s all going to be OK.

If I could turn back the clock…

…I would relive those first days, when her daddy instinctively new that pressing her tiny head against his chest and gently bouncing up and down would soothe her to sleep anywhere.

…I would slow down time so I could watch her stretch her tiny arm up to that cornsilk tuft on top of her head and run her little fingers through her hair until she lulled herself to sleep.

…I would exhale through that moment when she woke up after the dreaded tonsillectomy, with her swollen tongue and blood crusted on the edges of her mouth, and I would laugh again as she exclaimed at the TV, “Little bear!” and gingerly sucked on popsicles in her hospital bed all afternoon.

…I would convince both of us that she was just fine at kindergarten, even though she clung to my hand every Tuesday, Thursday, and alternating Fridays until Mrs. Jackson looked down at her and said, “Good morning Abby” and she reluctantly let go of me and entered her classroom.

…I would have reassured her that she doesn’t have to answer all the questions that her second grade teacher can ask, and it’s OK to let someone else raise their hand.

…I would find a way to show that increasingly insecure adolescent not to lose her confidence, because all those fabulous things about her are the things that matter anyway.

…I would tell myself never to second guess the money we spent on vacations, because I will forever remember freezing at the Wisconsin Dells, marveling at the rocky mountains, gazing over Chicago at the top of the Navy Pier ferris wheel, and basking in the sun and the sunset over the gulf of Mexico.

…I would cheer even louder at those jump serves in her last competitive volleyball game, not only because she landed every one, but because they show that she ended her volleyball career with sportmanship, poise, and class.

…I would insist on even more nights that all six of us at eat together at the dinner table, loving how ridiculous and obnoxious we get in the way that only our family can.

…I would remind myself more often that our lives are so short, and the struggles that seemed huge at the time were fleeting and helped her become the pillar of strength that she is.

Time marches on, the cliché goes, and all we can do is look forward. And so I will try to worry less, trust more, and absorb every moment…without blinking ever again. Happy Graduation my baby girl. We are so proud.