Sunday, May 19, 2013

Goodbye Alice in Wonderland

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I HATE when I do that. Mostly because this week is like ‘Milestone Mania’ in the Walton/Kelly household. Two sons will graduate 8th grade…one daughter is turning 16 and will be getting a new truck.. and one daughter is graduating high school ALL ON THE SAME WEEKEND!!!! I know, right??!!.. In the flood of graduation cards that we are receiving, we received a letter from Hannah’s 4th grade teacher. Within this letter were papers that Hannah filled out in the summer before 4th grade, to be mailed to her teacher so that he can ‘get to know’ each student. In her childlike handwriting she shares her personality traits and her life goals. As I read it I think, “who is this person?” as she is nothing like the person she was 8 years ago. The little girl who liked to read mysteries, now gets her information from an iPhone…the favorite trip to Sea World is now trumped by solo ‘girls trips’ to Mission Beach; the cheerleading as a favorite sport has changed to shopping; and her BFF Taylor doesn’t even live in AZ anymore. Life changes. They grow up before your eyes. One minute you are holding their hands as they walk into their new elementary school classroom, and the next you are hemming the graduation gown and practicing walking on grass in heels for the ceremony. So it got me thinking about that country song that says, “If I could write a letter to me”. The song opens with “If I could write a letter to me--And send it back in time to myself at 17”. The things that matter to you at one age, doesn’t matter to you at another age. You change. You grow. And no matter how a parent tries to slow down that process, it will happen. It is happening. So as I prepare to write Hannah her graduation letter, I can’t help but think about what I can tell her about life and the roads she is about to pave for herself. I’ve tried her whole life to make her a decent human being. I’ve witnessed her transformation from muddy knees to diva-ish behaviors. How can I give her life advice when I don’t really know what I want to be when and if I grow up? Besides, that portion of my parenting years are over. I’ve spent the last 17 years guiding her, teaching her, making decisions for her, and giving her a solid foundation to be her own unique self. I would like to tell her not to sweat the small stuff, but sometimes the small things seem so big when you’re going through them. I would like to tell her that many people work their butts off in college and NEVER even work at a job within their major. I need to tell her that many people don’t graduate college in 4 years and need more time as they discover new interests. That life is full of twists and turns. Steven Woodhull said, “You've got a lot of choices.  If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you're not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice”. I would like to tell her that there is more to college than studying and she should experience everything from sororities to football games to late nights out with roommates, because in the grown up world our lives aren’t really that exciting. I need to tell her to not be so hard on herself when she makes mistakes, and she will make mistakes. I need to tell her to take chances even if it means she can fail. I need to tell her to find a passion, whether it is a lifelong one or a temporary one. Whether it is sitting in a coffee shop for an hour alone or developing a personal skill, passion for ‘something’ is important. But more importantly I need her to find love, whether it is with a boyfriend, a best friend, a puppy, fish, or houseplant. It’s a big, big world out there and it sure as hell feels better when you have a soft place to land when it gets too much. But the best advice I can give her I know that she already accomplished: to be a good be kind to those around her. As her fourth grade teacher said about the person she was at 9 years old, “you have inner beauty”. Let it shine as bright as the sun… Oh, and play well with others. And like what you see when you look in the mirror, because I sure as hell like what I see when you look at me!!!! A favorite Alice in Wonderland conversation says:
“Would you tell me please which way to go from here”?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where”, said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”, said the Cat.
“So long as I get SOMEWHERE”, Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.
I hope she enjoys the process of becoming an adult. As the song goes, “And oh you got so much going for you going right---But I know at 17 it's hard to see past Friday night”, so this is why I’ll spend my days thinking about the person she will become as she goes from my home and steps into the real world. And I hope that when it is all said and done, that she thinks “I need to call my mom”.

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