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Melancholy Milestones

Melancholy Milestones

It innocently arrived in my mailbox – a small plain postcard.  Four short lines announcing an open house for my eldest daughter to attend at our neighborhood high school because she will be entering its halls in the fall.  The flutter felt in my stomach soon folded into a pit.  I was wrapped in emotion as I took a screenshot to send to her dad so he too could plan to attend.

When he responded “ok” indicating that he got the information, I tried to reach out.  I feebly replied that I promised I would try not to cry through the whole thing.  He responded with a smile face emoji.  I set my phone down and let the tears fall.

Our daughter is heading to high school.  As with most things new and unknown, my thoughts and emotions are a mix as I try to steady the scary.  In past parenting moments when one of my daughters was experiencing a milestone, he was at my side.  He would comfort me in these moments, nearly from presence alone, because I knew we shared the same hopes, worries, and fierce love for our daughters.

He was the person who found me in her nursery at 3 a.m. thirteen years ago exhausted and quietly singing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, in a desperate attempt to soothe her.  He took her out of my arms and told me to go sleep.  We later laughed at the only song I could recall in my brain-blurred state.

He was the person who kept me upright during the first day of kindergarten for each of our girls and reminded me to bring my sunglasses.  He is the person who knows each of my parenting weaknesses, preferences, failings, strengths, and tendencies.  He is the person who likely most understands how I am feeling in the face of my Anna moving too fast toward this milestone.

On Saturday at the open house, I will not get a reassuring squeeze of my hand or a slight nod urging me to keep fighting back the emotion and just be cool and keep walking.  I will not get an acknowledgement from him that he knows and that all is well.  I will not get what I most want and need – an emotional connection from the father of our daughters.

I will instead be clear on the next best and most important focus – what my daughter most wants and needs on Saturday.  I will be present to her needs instead of making it about mine.  I will do what every parent does every day in the face of parenting – set aside the “me” and make it about her journey.  A journey I am so lucky to have a place in. And while she and her parents will not walk about of the school together in a small huddled family clan processing the fears, excitement, and hopes for the next school year, we will still walk out with the ties of family binding us and each of us getting what we need – the reassurance that this journey is great and all is well.

Angela Dunne