In just a few weeks, K will graduate from 8th grade. One of her last assignments is to write a graduation speech. Each of the 8th graders writes a speech and delivers it to the children and parents of their homeroom class. Afterwards, two are selected to be shared at the ceremony itself. K decided to write hers on the theme of facing fears and how she and others did this during middle school. It’s a lovely speech containing just the right combination of reflection and comic relief with the FDR quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” thrown in for good measure.
When we searched on-line to make sure she had captured the quote accurately, we found one of his other quotes, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” K chose the classic, well-known quote but this other one really struck a chord with me. As I think about it, it could be my parenting manifesto, if, in fact, I’m even using the word manifesto properly. In case I’m not, I mean my motto, only bigger than that.
I was afraid when we started the adoption process. Afraid that no birth parents would choose us. Afraid that if they did, they’d change their minds. Afraid about the lack of control I would have in pre-natal care. Afraid about the lack of control I had in everything. I was afraid but we went forward any way because the possibility that I would never be a mother was so much worse. K’s birth mother did choose us, and she didn’t change her mind, and her pre-natal care was fine, and control is over-rated. K was ours and I could stop being afraid.
Yeah, except then there was the first night in the hotel. We fed K and changed her and watched her breathe. When morning finally arrived, I was so grateful we had all survived. Until I realized we needed to do it again and again and again. So I took a deep breath and took it one day at a time. Being K’s mom was more important than being afraid.
Then there was K’s first fall. We were at my parent’s house and I was right next to her. She tottered and fell and I couldn’t catch her in time. K was fine and I was in tears. I looked at my mom and dad and said “I tried to catch her and I couldn’t.” My dad, the father of 5 and grandfather of more, shook his head and said, “That’s the first fall of many. You’re going to have to pace yourself.” My dad was a wise man who said many wise things but “you’re going to have to pace yourself” is one of my favorites. When my fear for K outweighs my courage, I try to pace myself.
And now K’s graduating from middle school. She goes places without us. Her friends’ parents are no longer exclusively people I’ve known for years. There are middle school boys. Cars are in her not-so-distant future. Next year, there will be high school boys. As much as I’d like to erect stone walls on either end of our street, I have to smile and let her go. I don’t have to like it and I can still be afraid but I have to let her go. I like to think that FDR and my dad would be proud.