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Suburban Island

The Baccalaureate Liturgy of the Class of 2004
Sunday, Jun. 06, 2004, 10:26 a.m.

QUESTION: How did she grow up so fast?

WHAT I LEARNED: Take a deep breath and count to ten.

Friday night was a wonderful night for me. It was the Baccalaureate Mass for the 2004 graduating class of my daughter’s high school. Today is the commencement ceremony. By the end of the weekend, my daughter will officially be done with high school and heading on to new things.

It was a wonderful liturgy service, with a heartfelt homily, in a beautiful church. What a moment of parental pride for all of us mothers and fathers to see our kids filing into church, dressed in their flowing graduation gowns, and looking like so many happy angels at this moment of coming and going between kid-hood and adult life. I loved the idea of having their exit from school and entrance into the wide world blessed with a special service in this way.

Life here in the summer of 2004 is never cicada free, and the deacon who gave the homily reminded us that it was most of our kids’ first summer 17 years ago when the cicadas last appeared. Oh, how I remember hauling a baby around with those damn cicadas perched everywhere. Running with a baby is hard so mothers of young children have to be brave about cicadas. I’m glad my kids are older now so I can express my inner scary-cat again.

I was surprised at how great I felt during the liturgy – just such a powerful feeling of peace and joy washing over me and lifting all the troubles of trials of ordinary life right off my shoulders for a spell. I was amazed that my daughter had grown up so very fast and in another few weeks will be 18 years old. How can it be? I can recall the ballet classes, the first day of school each September, the homework projects, the dolls that talked or sparkled or both, happy meals, My Little Ponies, field trips, Christmas mornings, Disney World, the birthday party sleepover for 15 little girls in sleeping bags, Girl Scouts, piano recitals, and tucking her in at night with a kiss no matter how old she got.

Was that all a million years ago? Or was it just yesterday? When I brought my daughter, my firstborn, home from the hospital, I was so intimidated by this miracle in action that was mine to love and care for, to nurture and protect -. I was scared – how could I do all this and do it well? Would I be a good enough mom? I clearly recall being afraid to carry her down the steps, worrying over the temperature of baths, cogitating about kid cuisine, chasing after her as she ran too fast along the edge of the community pool or just around the furniture in the living room, and being staggered by simply keeping up with the boundless energy of the young.. It was a big job and I – I was a rookie mom. I was well aware of my great responsibility and of my true lack of practical parenting know-how and kid-experience. Like all mothers, I just had to dive in and do my best.

And here she is – graduating high school – a bright, beautiful young woman who is strong and smart and very capable.

I guess I did okay. Insert parental sigh of relief here. In fact, I think I did very well. My daughter has taught me that parenting is hard but it is worth the work. In fact, both my kids prove it to me every day.

Except Friday night for around a half hour before heading off the Mass. It was 30 minutes before leaving for the Baccalaureate Liturgy, when I discovered that my son had no idea where his dress shirt was and seemed to be incapable of finding it. I found it though – under a pile of clean laundry. It was as wrinkled as a shar-pei. Guess who had to iron it? And dinner – there was no time so I thought something gourmet and fast like McDonald’s would serve. Dinner however turned out to be nothing at all as my son suddenly decided that healthy cuisine was an imperative he could no longer deny. Picture steam starting to spurt from mom’s ears now. My tight little schedule was quickly unraveling. Stress increased as more mom-crazy-making behavior ensued. My daughter – quietly going about her business while mother and son fought the escalating battle of readying for an off-site family event, had to chew out both me, and her erstwhile brother, for stressing on her big evening. My 17-year-old daughter was being more mature, was more pulled together, and had been more prepared for the evening ahead than her older but not-necessarily-wiser mom. Life is humbling like this at times.

She was right. I had become a yelling-up-the-stairs mom, an angry-and-annoyed mom, a mom who didn’t remember to prepare her stuff early so that she was all ready to go and could be calm, cool, and collected on this important evening. No, I was an unorganized, unprepared, harried mom and now I was blowing up at youngest kid for doing exactly the same thing I had done – procrastinated to the nth degree. My son, a button pusher in time-constrained situations and an individual who can throw himself into slow gear in the midst of hectic moments thus ensuring parental meltdowns, got an earful from me – his sainted mom. I had to apologize to him in church. A dose of God does that to you. Suddenly, we both felt very silly.

Sometimes even a good mom is a bad mom at times. Sometimes a good kid is a pain in the ass. That’s where love and forgiveness, perspective and a sense of humor, all come into play. Sometimes even a good mom or a good kid - as the case may be - forget to be kind to themselves and others. She’s impatient, she’s inflexible, she’s irritable. He’s annoying, he’s dragging his feet, he’s uncooperative. She’s a real person – real and imperfect. So is he. Oh, how disconcerting it is to find oneself so imperfect in situations where one wants to remember oneself as being a paragon of perfection in every sense. I’m sure my son felt the same.

The truth is that sometimes good moms do their best and it’s all good and sometimes they just blow it. But a good mom dusts herself off and tries to do it a better next time. The same goes for the kid. Persistence in the face of household calamity is the hallmark of a good mom and the mainstay of the good kid as well. Doing better next time. Learning from the mistakes of daily living. That’s the currency of a happy household

And that’s the other half of what I learned Friday night – or was at least reminded about on the evening of my daughter’s Baccalaureate Mass.

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