Yesterday, I watched our youngest daughter—wearing a bright smile and her royal blue cap and gown— graduate from high school. In the blink of an eye, my baby went from diapers to diploma!
Maybe it’s the emotional milestone of her commencement ceremony, or maybe it’s my middle-aged hormones kicking into overdrive, but either way I’m feeling particularly reflective today. I find myself thinking about this young woman and the life lesson’s I’ve learned just by being her mom. I know it’s the parent who is supposed to teach and nurture the child, but somewhere along the way, she’s taught me a lot about myself and about life. Below are a few nuggets of wisdom gleaned while raising our daughter from ABCs to ACTs and kindergarten to college. I’ve learned…
1. I’m a dinosaur when it comes to technology.
When she leaves for college in the fall, our home tech infrastructure will likely collapse. Between the 5 remotes and the overabundance of related acronyms (DVR, DVD, AV, HD, PC, OS, etc.), she keeps us updated, upgraded and up on the latest Netflix releases. At least I’ve mastered FaceTime so she can virtually hold my hand through my next tech crisis.
2. When to speak my mind and when to channel my inner Elsa and just let it go!
I admittedly adore this newly-minted adult child of mine, even though she’s been known to challenge me at times. Like any mother of teens, I’ve occasionally had to slip into my invisible teflon shield to block the brazen back talk. But I’ve learned when to hold my ground (and forbid the “so short I can almost see your underwear!” skirt), and when to let it go and let her figure out some things on her own.
3. It’s okay to rock mom jeans.
When I’m debating on which pair of shoes or earrings to wear, she’s my go-to fashion adviser. It’s her closet I raid if I need a new outfit. Together, we’ve survived hi-low hemlines, leggings (which I still say are NOT pants), sports bras and UGG boots. We’ve helped each other avoid fashion faux pas (see above) and encouraged one another to dress our respective ages. She’s shown me that the most beautiful thing a woman can wear is a smile.
4. I’m alright just the way I am…stretch marks, saggy boobs and all.
Back when she was a tot, we’d bathe together. One time, she took a look at my less-than-perky parts and abundant midsection and said innocently, “Mom, you look like an old woman.” After seeing the shock on my face, she hugged me and added, “But it’s okay, you ARE an old woman.” So there. No problem. No judgement. Just stating the facts, ma’am. Fifteen years later, I’d still welcome a free boob lift if there’s a plastic surgeon out there willing to give a pro-bono boost, but I’m not ashamed of my stretch marks or my fleshy parts. They are a part of me and a daily reminder that this body has carried and nurtured two amazing human beings.
5. Integrity trumps drama every day.
My girl has taught me the importance of standing up for what’s right and true. Together, we learned how to take the high road with bullies and to show compassion to the underdog, or the underclassmen. She’s shown me that friendships evolve—some last and some don’t—and are based on mutual respect. I’m eager to see her circle of friends grow as she goes off to college and surrounds herself with other women of integrity.
6. Dancing in the kitchen is good for the soul.
You’ve heard that the kitchen is the hub of the home. But did you know it’s also an awesome place to dance? To shake your stresses out while shaking your booty! If I’ve got music on when she walks in the door, there’s no telling what will happen. A tango. A waltz. Or my personal favorite, the butter churn. One time when I was working my “sprinkler” moves, I reminded her just how hip I was. Her response, “Mom, you may be hip, but please be careful. I’m afraid you’re going to actually break a hip!” Oh, how I’ll miss that kid. And I know she’ll miss my dynamite dance moves.
7. Grey’s Anatomy is not real life.
Every week, my little tech genius records Grey’s Anatomy so we can watch it together. It’s our thing. Our show. One hour a week where it is just us…and, of course, the dreamy docs with their drama du jour. Although we love to watch them sort out their personal messes and save lives each episode, we’ve realized that real life messes cannot always be cleaned up in under sixty minutes. Real issues take time and effort, passion and compassion, honesty and accountability.
8. Sometimes silence really is golden.
By now you’ve figured out that I’m a talker. An extrovert. A person who “thinks out loud.” One who blogs her feelings. My daughter, not so much. She’s an internal processor who needs alone time to sort things out and to recharge her batteries. She’s taught me to be patient, and allow her the time she needs to communicate effectively. I’ve learned there can be real value in pausing to process and, more importantly, pausing to listen.
9. When life hands you lemons, share your lemonade with others who are thirsty.
Don’t let this blog fool you. My kid has not always had a smooth ride. Like many young people, she’s struggled and suffered from situations completely out of her control. She had to fight back and dig deep. She had to be resilient. But through some of the hardest challenges came the most character-building outcomes and the most precious relationships. The people she found in her dark times have become her greatest sources of strength and support to date. And now she is paying it forward, sharing what she’s learned from her challenges to help others through their own.
Even though she’s flying the coop and heading off to college (sigh) in seventy-seven days, something tells me she’s not done teaching me yet. I’ve still got a lot to learn and she’s still got a lot of living to do! Until the next lesson, I’m going to head to the kitchen and brush up on my latest dance moves.
Kelly Radi is a Grown & Flown mom of two daughters–who went from diapers to diplomas in a nano-second! Kelly’s living her dream as an author and public speaker, empowering parents as they prepare to launch their children. Her book is Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and read more of her parenting wisdom at outtoseaparentsguide.com.