It's been three weeks and a day since the kid left, which is a milestone. Before now, the longest we've been separated as a family was three weeks for her bucolic summer camp which allowed no electronics, forcing them to communicate with loved ones with a PEN and a PAPER. So the irony is that when she was at camp twenty miles away we heard from her less than we're hearing from her in France, texting us to let us know French food is amazing but their burritos are somewhat inconsistent.
I've missed her, but if you're the parent of a senior in high school and you're starting to dread the upcoming wrenching away, I can only give you my reaction so far. The dread leading up to her leaving was far, far, worse than her being gone. What has replaced the dread is some occasional aches, but also kind of quiet relief.
We're modern parents, we didn't do this by halves. I used to entertain myself by asking parents of the kid's classmates if they did a) more, b) less, c) the same amount for their children as their parents did for them. 100%, let me repeat 100%, of them said "More." One woman applied for and decided on a college without ever mentioning it to her family. Teens got themselves to practices at 5 in the morning. One father said to me, "I'm not sure my father knew where I went to school."
This isn't to say that we had terrible, negligent parents. There were fewer expectations, fewer options. The journey to a good college is now presented as an arms race, a race in which tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires are paying American grad students to write their children's essays for them. The prizes go to the shining stars, and there's always something more you the parent could be doing to burnish the kid's glow. Also, sexting! We're very worried about sexting. We're very worried about everything. Parenting is 18 years of playing Chutes and Ladders with someone else's future. We're trying to do everything right. You don't realize how much energy that program, trying to to everything right, is using up running in your head-computer until it's not.
Something could go to hell with the kid tomorrow. Something could be going to hell right now, and they're just trying to fashion an effective tourniquet before they let us know. I'm probably putting the horns on the serenity merely by noticing it. Coming to regret the hubris of having written this already. But for right now, as far as I know, my kid is happy. Daniel is happy. I'm constitutionally incapable of happiness, but am looking forward to the first Gap Year adventure, which starts later this week. The pets seem to be working through their grieving.
Hey, parent of a senior?
This might be as a bad as it gets.