(June 9, 2008) Hear the audio version

My youngest is graduating from high school this week. Thus it is, to borrow a phrase from a wonderful commencement address by Adlai Stevenson, the last of my springs. For many – and perhaps most parents, this would be a melancholy moment, filled with musings about the impending empty nest and laments along the lines of “I can’t believe my baby is graduating!” But for me it’s Hallelujah, hooray, and pass the cabernet! Or as Bob Dylan put it, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”

I have been a public school parent for 18 years. Though I’ll always be grateful to my daughters’ teachers for providing a solid education, I will not miss waking my child up early for school when I know she needs more sleep. I won’t miss observing a morning meltdown over a missing stamped first draft of an English paper, or having to track down the elusive ingredient for a final Spanish project. Like her sisters, my youngest will face academic and personal challenges in college. I’ll hear about some of them via cell phone or email. But I won’t have to witness the daily struggles. I’ve done that. I’m still relieved my daughters survived middle school mean girls, high school expectations and college entrance exams and applications. My classic stress dream of finally finding my high school math class the day of the final (it was up the down staircase) is occasionally replaced by my nightmare of the power going out in our house the night before SAT’s, and everyone oversleeping.

I miss my kids when they go off to college. But if they’re doing well – wherever they are – so am I. I don’t need to hold on to my children to feel good as a parent. In fact, if I’ve done my job right, I’ll work my way out of a job as my daughters become self-sufficient, independent adults, the sort of grown-ups I’d want to have as friends or colleagues.

So I don’t expect to be sad on this final graduation night. I will congratulate my daughter and her high school friends for their remarkable tenacity and achievements, and look forward to the next phase of all of our lives.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.