Wes: It is mid-August. Summer is in its slow and hot ebb. September is close, but not close enough. When it arrives, it will begin a seasonal transition toward renewal as the heat withdraws, the rains hopefully return, the grass turns green and the grain yellows. It also will bring the season of loss for those who have a teenage family member or friend leaving for college. Some will relocate to schools far from home. Others will be just across Iowa Street. It really doesn't matter much, since the distance created by a child leaving home is not measured in miles. It is measured in the heartfelt sense of absence that seems to have begun somewhere around age 13 and now culminates in packed bags that leave behind hauntingly empty rooms. I am feeling that loss this week as Marissa Ballard leaves "Double Take" for Pittsburg State University in a few days. Marissa has really left her mark as its co-author over the last year. To say she will be missed both personally and professionally is a remarkable understatement. In this final column, I will turn it over to Marissa to share her closing thoughts. In doing so, I would remind all those grieving the loss of their teenagers of a simple truth that is often forgotten during these days: The point of raising kids is to let them go. Parenting is one of the rare professions in which we are fired by our best customers. It is only when we are most successful that we get to feel the pain of loss because we have fulfilled our duty to our children. Transitioning out of the home is bidding farewell to one relationship to make space for another. If those rooms seem empty today, remember that they will one day be filled with guests: young adults who come home with their own loved ones, and eventually their children. As such, this season of loss should be embraced along with the other gifts of September, when we are reminded that before anything can grow, something else must pass. I wish Marissa the very best in the road ahead, and I expect to get an e-mail from her now and then.
Marissa: My last column. Those three small words conjure up a flurry of emotions. I am happy, devastated, ecstatic, nervous and, all in all, content. I feel that I have done a decent job as this year's co-author, and I am leaving it with confidence.
When Wes first told me of his and Jenny's idea for "Double Take," I thought of it as a sort of "Dear Annie" aimed at teens and parents. I thought it was an incredible idea and was honored to be apart of the creation process. I feel that "Double Take" has been able to convey important information to families in a unique and fresh way. I truly believe that we have helped at least a few people through this year. That cannot go without mentioning how challenged I was by some of the questions we received. There were times that I wished a sentence or two would have sufficed.
I could not list the many different ways that I changed and grown while writing this column, but I believe I have benefited the most in the way that the column has helped me to form strong opinions. It is hard to write a point of view on a topic when you do not know exactly how you feel about it; especially when there is the possibility of hundreds of strangers reading those opinions. It has forced me to become an independent and outspoken young woman, which is an invaluable characteristic.
I feel blessed to have been able to have this experience. It has afforded me some real-life experience in the field of journalism and given me a taste of consistent deadlines and critical feedback.
I want to thank everyone who has read this column. I have had people approach me as if they already know me and discuss how they felt about the week's topic. I think that is amazing, and I know that I would not have met some of the people whom I have without it. I must also thank my parents for their support even when they disagreed, and Wes for his patience and for treating an 18-year-old with only a year or so of journalism experience as an equal.
I have appreciated every piece of e-mail and letter to the editor in response to something either Wes or I have written. I hope the community continues to read and enjoy the column for years to come.
Next Week: Join us Aug. 22 for John Murray's first column in which he discusses the junk food controversy at area schools.
- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Marissa Ballard is a Lawrence High School graduate. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.