In a few short days, my first born will enter the doors of high school as a freshman. I’m feeling very ambivalent about the whole thing. On one hand, I cannot wait for her to be back into some sort of educational structured environment where she will learn something other than how to drive me to drink in thirty seconds or less. On the other hand … she’s my first born and seeing her go to high school is witnessing the beginning of the end of her childhood.
I simply cannot believe that the little four year old girl who grasped my hand so tightly when we walked through the deer park at Marineland and who ultimately wanted to be carried WAY UP HIGH, MOMMY! WAY UP HIGH! because a deer had brushed up against her is now going to walk amongst sophomores, juniors and seniors and anyone who is familiar with high school, especially high school girls, knows that this breed of animal is a whole lot scarier than anything you’re going to see at Marineland. And it’s not like you can just toss some alfalfa or barley or apples at them and they’ll nuzzle their thanks and then leave you alone. No, this is high school. They’ll take that apple, chew it up, spit it at your face, take a picture of you with their cell phones, photoshop a naked body on you and post it on the Internet for the entire world to see.
Not that I’m paranoid or anything. I need to stop watching Dateline. And 20/20. All of them, actually.
The past fourteen years have whipped by, taking with them the temper tantrums and meltdowns and stubbornfests that I thought would never ever end. They do and the subject of them is now busy with a social life and is never home and the house is silent and you can’t complain because this is what you wished for, remember? Like the time you spent all day arguing with her because she caused all three cordless phone batteries to die after talking nonstop for seven hours, after which she proceeded to use up all of her cell phone minutes by texting because apparently, those seven hours weren’t enough time to discuss Breaking Dawn and their summer reading assignments which should have been done weeks ago. Remember?
If I close my eyes, I can still see myself dropping off Zoe at daycare, giving her a hug and a kiss, walking out the door, getting in my car and driving alongside the windows of her classroom so that I could give her one last wave before I went on my way. Occasionally I would find myself half way to work before realizing that I forgot to do my drive by wave. I would panic, knowing with sheer certainty that Zoe was having a meltdown, bawling her eyes out and wondering if I didn’t love her anymore and had left her forever. I’d veer off the nearest exit and race back to the day care, run to her classroom and stand there in the doorway, breathless and ready to hug the stuffing out of her only to see her laughing and running and playing with her friends with no trace of tears, or even a pout, on her little face. Her teacher would then remind me that Zoe loved her classroom and her teachers and her friends and that she was OK when I was gone and that she would always love me, even if I forgot to wave once in a while. In other words, don’t worry.
Telling me not to worry is like telling Nate to hand over the remote. Not going to happen in this lifetime.
In every practical way, Zoe will be ready for high school. The cha-ching bells will be ringing as we make our way through new jeans and the new shirts and the new sneakers and a new hair cut and all the folders and binders and pens and highlighters and whatever other supplies she’s going to need. Everything except that new $120 graphing calculator because her $110 calculator that we bought her last year better be sufficient. Otherwise, I’ll be hiking my butt before the school board to give them the last tiny little piece of my mind that I’ve been saving for just such an occasion. Lucky them, I know.
But what about the stuff I can’t buy at Target or Staples? The stuff that doesn’t appear in any of their fliers from the Sunday paper that I have to dig out of the recycle bin every Monday because when I say to Nate “save these for me, I need to go through them” he hears “get rid of every shred of this paper this instant and never let me see it again.”
What about confidence?
I think she has all of them. If I did my job right, she shouldn’t have to look too deep within her to avail herself of any of them. But what if I didn’t do my job well enough? I talked to her ad nauseam about good grades and getting involved in extra curricular activities and making good decisions and the consequences of bad decisions, even if it meant I was talking to her back as she walked out of the room in a huff, shouting “OH MY GOSH, MOM! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO HEAR THIS STUFF?” What if she’s just humoring me by making me think she’s actually listening to me when in fact, she’s memorizing her iPod wish list? What if the next time would have been the clincher?
Not that I’m paranoid or anything.
The next four years are going to be a roller coaster and I’m still wondering whether I meet the height requirement for the ride.
She’ll study Shakespeare while I lose myself in her finger painted turkey from preschool.
She’ll be wearing eyeshadow and eyeliner and lipstick while I leaf through faded photos of her playing dress-up with the plastic vanity I found on sale twelve years ago for her second birthday.
She’ll be dating and I’ll be drenched in panic sweat waiting up for her, staring at her date’s fingerprints that I obtained from the glass of water I offered him, wondering how fast I can get a background check done by midnight, all while reading her journal from kindergarten where she printed in big block letters KEVIN IS A STINK HEAD.
She’ll be going for her license and I’ll be calling up my doctor and begging him for a lifetime supply of Xanax.
She’ll be trying on prom dresses and I’ll be touching her tiny little christening dress and feeling the tears well up as I catch my reflection in her first tiny pair of patent leather shoes.
She might get her heart broken. I might need to make bail after I rip the guy’s spleen out with a spoon. I’ll let you know.
She might have to choose between what is right and what is popular. I might have to have someone tie me to a chair and duct tape my mouth shut and let her learn the hard way.
She might find herself in the middle of intense social pressure to indulge in drugs, alcohol, sex or any of the 1,893 risky behaviors that run amuck in my vivid imagination. Not that I’m paranoid or anything. I will cry and hold my breath and pray that she makes a good decision so that we can avoid rehab or jail or a baby or a funeral.
She might not ask for my help and I might not give it.
She might have the time of her life in high school and I might breathe a sigh of relief and thank God before I get ready for her little sister to take the same ride.
She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s funny, she’s quirky, she’s not getting a cell phone with unlimited texting until she can afford to pay for it herself, she’s my first born and she’s going to be a freshman.
Whether I’m ready for it or not.