June 25, 2013

The past week has been a tornado of teen activity in our house and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world! My daughter Gabi took us through her prom, after-prom partying and graduation. So many emotions for me, and not all of them pretty. But in the end, we celebrated her exciting rite of passage with great happiness.

If you want to read the dirt, here it is: While I’ve been bracing myself for the bittersweet experience of letting my baby go, I wasn’t prepared to confront my own jealousy. Ugh, there — I’ve admitted it.

Can I get whine-y for a second (or two)? I was Class of 1974 at Stuyvesant High School, at a time of intense protest against the Vietnam War. The concept of prom seemed so frivolous that we cancelled it. College wasn’t a big deal for me either; between my rotten grades and control freak immigrant parents who wanted me to stay close, I lived at home and commuted by subway to campus. Of course, all of this meant that I didn’t have much of a social life.

So here I am, in totally new territory. I have a fabulous, very social daughter who is going away to a great school. Thanks to her, I get to vicariously experience all that I missed, which has been wonderful. And yet, there were twinges of regret for myself. They hit me mid-way through our busy week, between prom and graduation. We had been doing a lot of running around and I was feeling like an exhausted, cranky old lady.

That moment proved to be a turning point because an insight slapped me in the face. Suddenly, I understood those parents who choose to live through their children instead of letting their kids go. In my neediness, I felt an overpowering urge to clutch at Gabi and fill up the emptiness of my own teen memories with her experiences — a shortcut to personal fulfillment.

No, stop right there! She has to find her own way while I stand at the door of our home, waving good-bye with love and pride. If I can give my daughter her space and figure out my own destiny, then I’m sure that our future as mother and daughter will include a precious bonus: We just might become friends for life.

Of course, there’s plenty of stuff to keep me busy in the days ahead. I’ve got writing and art projects to create, journalism classes to teach, home repairs to make, bills to pay (college tuition — help!!!). But the real mission isn’t about ¬†filling up the time. My greater goal is to evolve as a passionate person. Live in the moment with grace while showing kindness to others. Can I do that?

Right after Gabi’s graduation, we took off with her godmother Judy for a getaway weekend at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y. Our two restful days and nights of recovery were centered around spa indulgences and the all-you-can-eat buffets.

I will always remember the blissful yoga with instructor Shannon Lashlee. She ended one inspring class with a quote by Lao Tze, the ancient Chinese philosopher who is the father of Taoism, a cool dude:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habit.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

So this is where I am right now. Hello, transition mode — again. And it feels like a good place to be. xo.

P.S. — Here’s a shot of Gabi in her prom dress. Before the actual event, the parents gathered with the kids in the high school courtyard to take pictures…lots of fun.

Original copyrighted work by Betty Ming Liu

Hey! If you liked this post, you might also be interested in these earlier posts:

How to stretch your dollars at Mohonk Mountain House

Can I be more than Mommy?