The big day of my daughter’s college graduation has finally arrived, and I am able to breathe a little sigh of relief. I softly whisper as I squeeze my husband’s hand, “she finally made it.”
Looking around the room, I spot the other parents and family members clutching tonight’s event program in their hands and readying their cameras in just the right position to forever capture this magical moment. There is this sense of camaraderie amongst us, we are filled with the same pride about our children’s’ accomplishments and the excited anticipation for what lay ahead for them.
This chapter of their lives, “Adulting with Training Wheels,” is quickly nearing the end. My daughter, like the other graduates surrounding her, are about to take those first few solo pedals on their own into the full-fledged (and somewhat terrifying) adventurous world of adulthood.
College Graduation is So Different Than High School Graduation
I catch a glimpse of her looking so poised, dressed in her floral dress and black suede high heels picked especially for this occasion, waiting patiently and taking in the last few moments before saying goodbye to this part of her life and stepping into the next one. At this moment I am suddenly hit with an emotional tidal wave swirling with nostalgia, pride, and a little bit of anxious worry about her imminent future. College graduation is so very different from her high school graduation that took place many moons ago, because the stakes are higher.
It seems like only yesterday I was piling on the waterproof mascara and filling my purse to the brim with tissues, jockeying to get the best view so that I could capture the moment that my daughter crossed the stage and was given her high school diploma. That little piece of paper telling the world that her future holds endless opportunities and that she was officially on the way to college and on to the next chapter of her life.
These sweet memories from long ago of her hugging her BFF’s, posing for what seems like a million photos, and the promises made among friends to always keep in touch and to spend breaks reminiscing and catching up, was filled with such excitement about what lay ahead. It was for my daughter just the beginning of that in between “no longer a teen, but not yet an adult” first steps of true independence. It’s the phase I’ve loving come to call the “Adulting with Training Wheels” stage of life.
The “Adulting with Training Wheels” is our children’s first attempt at peddling into this thing we call real life. It is the point in their lives that they will be packing up and heading off to college or trade school. The time that many will have to learn to share their space, take care of their things, learn time management without mom nagging them that they are going to be late, learn the importance of budgeting, and it will be the time that they will be exposed to things we may have tried to protect them from.
The college years are filled with a host of navigational lessons, but usually, our children have mom and dad, professors, counselors, and at times friends, acting as their personal GPS. Now they are at the point in their journey where they will need to forge their own path, to rely on their own internal compass, and take the first steps into the big wide unknown wilderness of life on their own.
What we both didn’t know back then, was just how much my daughter still had to go through and how much she needed to learn to get to the place where she would be “adulting” for real.
It took 5 scenic years, filled with a rollercoaster of health issues, a few abrupt changes in majors and the emotional teetering on the edge of a cliff journey through today’s modern-day higher education system, but my daughter has finally made it to the finish line. This is her shining moment, the day she worked so hard for and struggled to get to.
Now as I get ready to watch my daughter walk across the stage, I realize her training wheels are about to come off. She will have to pedal on her own and admitted that she is scared. I understand. This new phase can be anxiety-ridden for the new grad as they now face a future of dealing with a list of new adulting responsibilities.
What if they fail, how resilient will they be in the face of adversity, how will they deal with landing a job in a sea of other newly hatched grads, and will they ever learn the art of budgeting and be financially independent?
My daughter’s name is called, and I see her confidently walk across the stage to grab hold of her diploma and hold of her new life. Her adulting training wheels are starting to come off. Just then a sweet memory comes rushing back to me.
She is five, and she wants to try riding her bike without training wheels, just like the big kids. I nervously remove the training wheels from her bike and give her a push. She peddles furiously and takes off. A smile the size of Texas is plastered across her face and the wind is in her hair. She did it. She was riding just like the big kids.
As a watch my daughter with her diploma in hand, she turns towards us and we capture the moment. What I see on that stage in front of me is a young woman with the wind still blowing in her hair and a Texas-sized smile on her face. Yes, my daughter, you are riding into adulthood all on your own and are going to make it, just like the rest of us “big kids.”
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