Since many of you enjoyed my blog post, Footprints, this is the article I wrote in July 2010 after returning from my daughter’s New Student Conference at Texas A&M University. So as not to disrupt the original piece, I will provide a 2013 update at the end.
It was one of those deja vu moments. I adjusted myself in the uncomfortable seats in Rudder Auditorium as I prepared myself to listen for crucial parental instructions at my daughter’s freshman orientation at Texas A&M University. For an instant, I felt as though I actually left my body and stood briefly in the auditorium’s perimeter. I could acutely recall sitting in the same auditorium 25 years before with my parents preparing to be a freshman myself. In fact, I could actually see the three of us sitting there; it was an odd sensation. I remember my parents being more overwhelmed by the circumstance than I was at the time. Neither of them attended a major university, and the college terminology was like a foreign language to them. I felt like I had to lead them through the process. At the time, I was young, clueless, and eager to taste the freedom of being away from home, and I did not fully understand the magnitude of the journey that beckoned before me.
Something suddenly jolted me back to reality. I looked next to me and noticed my daughter focused intently on the speaker. Thankfully, she had not noticed my momentary time travel. I know her so well. She is taking it all in, but she is so much more equipped to process the information than I was at her age. Still, I know she is a bit intimidated by the impending urgency of it all. Does she know how proud her father and I are of her? I wonder if she fully understands the opportunities that stand before her. I can feel her slipping into her own life with more certainty and gradually moving out of ours. It is an unsettling feeling….
My daughter truly doesn’t need this orientation. She has been born and bred to be an Aggie. She could personally lead the campus tour, quote Aggie scripture, and she is insanely comfortable on this huge campus. It is her territory now. I am the one who needs the orientation. Oh yes, I can read the requirements, billing information, etc., but the formality of it all firmly reminds me of my place in life now. It helps me to adjust my stance. I am not the one walking this campus in the fall. I find myself wanting to fill her head with more and more precautions…”don’t walk alone on campus at night,” “try to study in the afternoon during your breaks,” “don’t forget to separate your whites from darks.” The warning bells constantly go off in my head. “Yes, Mom, I know,” she dutifully replies as I remind her of just one more thing. I know she isn’t really listening, but I feel better knowing that I tried to prepare her for the hundreds of things that she will suddenly confront that she has never encountered before. After all, these are the easy things. But what about the difficult choices? How do I possibly prepare her for these? I know very well that they will come.
She is a mini-me in so many ways, but so much braver and more secure about her path. I wish I could take the credit for that, but it is not my doing. I sense her growing anticipation. She has set a very determined path…double major in business honors and finance followed by a law degree. She wants to make a difference, and undoubtedly, she will. I admire her ambition, her passion, and her work ethic, but I worry about her absolute certainty. I try to caution her that her goals and priorities may change, but she turns a deaf ear. Her green eyes burn brightly with determination and purpose.
She craves her independence, and she hungers for freedom. She has proven herself very capable of making good decisions, so I do not worry that she will abandon common sense and become a wild child. That is not her nature, but still I worry. Will she choose supportive, caring friends? Will she stay true to herself and her values or allow others to influence her path? Will she meet a young man that causes her to re-evaluate that intensely focused path? And, if so, will she understand that changing priorities does not mean personal failure, but simply an altered route? I know her well enough to understand that family will be hugely important to her down the road, and I pray she finds someone to love with all of her heart.
Suddenly, I realize that it is time; I must bow out gracefully. It is truly her moment now. I stand ready if she calls on me for guidance and support. Her father and I will always be her biggest fans. Meanwhile, I pray that she embraces this time in her life, seizes every opportunity that comes her way, and builds friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. My friends that have traveled this road before me tell me that very soon I will be replacing those senior pictures that I just proudly hung in my hallway with college graduation pictures followed by wedding pictures. Really, wedding pictures? I guess life must go on….
July 2013 update—my daughter is entering her senior year at A&M. She will receive three degrees in May 2014--bachelor’s degrees in business honors and accounting, and a master’s degree in accounting. She has a job waiting for her at Deloitte in Houston when she graduates. Yes, I am very proud! As she exits A&M in May, her brother, my high school senior, will start his life as an Aggie in the fall of 2014. I will be hanging two graduation pictures in my hallway next June! I wonder what my thoughts will be when my baby boy attends his New Student Conference at A&M next summer….