It’s a gorgeous first
day of spring. Seventy-five degrees, with a gentle breeze that carries on
it the perfumes of the budding trees and flowers. A girl approaches with her
camera and snaps a close-up of a cherry blossom. The clouds are etched
into the blue background of the sky. Here and there, though, darker
clouds muscle their way to the front. And far over there, in the western
horizon, the sky is a cake, layered in white clouds of frosting so thick that
no blue can get through.
My daughter crosses her
arms. “Every girl in my class is going on senior week.”
I have no ready
answer. It just feels wrong. I return to my own
childhood, the way my parents raised me, a place I often retreat to when I
need parenting advice. “Some things should be saved for college.”
“You can’t stop me,” she
tells me. “I’ll be eighteen.”
I tell her she’s
right. I tell her perhaps she should look into an apartment; perhaps she
should pay for her college tuition on her own.
I hate these arguments
in which she is pulling away and I am holding her close, not, as she believes,
because I don’t trust her, but because I know all that can go wrong. And
I don’t know how to navigate this next step in parenting, the letting go part.
I head outside to attack
my flowerbeds. I yank mums that have strayed onto the path that winds
through my perennial garden. I cut back brave daylilies making a path of
their own. I dig up wayward ivy. I wonder if I’m trying to control
my daughter as much as I’m trying to control my garden. I wonder whether
I should just let the bed go; grow in its own way; accept it as it is.
I wonder how to let my
I consult other parents,
trying to garner support for my position. But ultimately, the decision is
my husband’s and mine.
I do not yet know which
is the right decision.
She asks if we can
I tell her she’s going
to try to convince us; to try to change my mind. “My mind is made
up,” I tell her.
“You’re going to try to
change my mind too,” she tells me. Again, she brings out the
argument. “I’ll be eighteen. I can do what I want.”
I think of all the
dangers. I think of the excess. I think in five short months,
she’ll be in college, making her own decisions.
In five short months,
she’ll be making her own decisions.
She softens her tone.
“What if I went for just a couple of days?”
I look to the sky, as if
I can discern the answers there.
Sometimes parenting can
be a gray cloud upon a darkened sky.
Sometimes answers are
etched with perfect clarity.
And sometimes, parenting
is a beautiful cake, lovingly layered in thick white frosting, sweet and good.
Labels: Creative non-fiction, essays