It had been a long time since my last panic attack, but sitting in the parent meeting for incoming high school freshmen brought that old familiar feeling of lightheadedness as the walls closed in around me and my heart beat with ferocity possibly audible to the three rows in front of and behind me.
“Welcome to high school parent information night,” the principal began. “After tonight you should have a better understanding of how ill-prepared you are to send your blossoming teenager off to college in a few years.”
He seemed like such a nice man. Why was he trying to scare me so? Looking around the room, it was clear that I was the only one listening, as no one else appeared to be struggling for air.
“Our staff is by far the best you will find,” he continued, maybe in reaction to the sudden and unbecoming shade of cadaver my face had just turned? “We offer clubs and activities for every interest. We even have a selection of study abroad courses for kids to take.”
While there are plenty of days I would love to ship my young teenager off to some remote, off-continent village until she turns 20, in reality I would have a hard time sending her on a field trip to Eudora. Europe is completely out of the question.
“There is plenty of parking available… ” he said, snapping me back to the cafeteria from some bar in Paris that loves to serve underage blond American girls wine by the liter while their parents lie awake across the ocean for an entire semester.
Did he just mention parking? Ridiculous. My daughter cannot maneuver a bumper car without leaving a trail of casualties behind. An automobile with doors and a speedometer could not be further from our “to buy” list. She is a natural disaster behind the wheel. Some might even say she takes after her mother. This same person would do well to remember who makes dinner for him every night.
“… Latin, calculus, physics…” Once upon a time, I could help her with her homework. When did my ability to integrate and differentiate get overtaken by my ability to hand-wash delicates?
“Course selection is just the tip of the iceberg of ways to ruin your child’s shot at ever moving out and contributing to society in this ever-churning sea of confusion,” he reassured us. “But we will help guide you.”
While it was comforting to know that I had an ally armed and ready to keep my daughter on the path to usefulness, it was not her emphatic — if not dramatic — insistence on taking four years of French that concerned me. It was the thought that after those four petit years she would be off to college. My little girl who still reads the comics every morning will load her backpack for high school one day and load her hatchback for college the next.
And, really, neither of us could possibly be ready for that yet.