I flew back from Los Angeles on Tuesday after dropping my older daughter off to start her third year of college after spending the summer doing a political internship in San Francisco. To say that I am proud of her is an understatement.
When you raise a child you think about the type of person you want them to become and work toward that day to day. There are moments when you question your ability to succeed. These moments include; smashed cars, sneaking out, having friends over without asking, having way too many friends over when you’re out of town, and other misdeeds. However, on this day I stand in the hallway of her dorm watching her talk on the phone. She is wearing a sky blue linen blouse and skirt, her ash blond hair is pulled back with a scarf. She is lovely in a way I could not have imagined when I held her tiny body in my arms at John Muir hospital so long ago.
What I am most proud of, however, is not what I would have expected in the years I spent raising her. A solid work ethic is a humble quality that is often overlooked as we parent to raise children into successful adults in our competitive culture.
As I watch her unpack, I think my daughter is one of the hardest working people I know. She has many talents and has been raised well, but the most important quality she possesses is her ability to understand the merits of hard work. One of her peers told me she goes far beyond what is required of her in terms of her college level course work and her grades reflect this. Over the summer, I watched her work 40 plus hours per week and even work up until the Friday before her classes began. Talent and education are meaningless without the work ethic to give the former fuel to move forward with our goals and dreams. It’s interesting that this isn’t a characteristic that is exemplified, but could possibly be the most important virtue of all. With hard work we can achieve almost anything we set our minds to.
On Sunday, we woke early and left at 5:00 a.m. to drive the 500 miles south to Newport Beach. We arrived in the early afternoon at the beautiful home of one of my best friends from college. Debra and I met in the dorms my freshman year and have been friends ever since. We have a tradition now of spending the weekend before college move in here with her. When I am with Debra I act eighteen again, we go to the beach, get ice cream before bed, and drive around Balboa Island in her golf cart. On this occasion we add shopping, a concert on the beach, and several lovely dinners out. In between, Debra and I sit in her courtyard and talk for hours. There is nothing I couldn’t share with her. She has context having witnessed every stage of my adult life and has an understanding of me that others do not. She is the friend who boarded the next flight out and was on my doorstep the day my husband died. The value of lifelong friendships can not be overstated.
On Tuesday, we say goodbye and travel north to move my daughter into her dorm. It’s 98 degrees and there is no air conditioning. Up and down the three flights of stairs we go for an hour. Once everything is in and unpacked we break for lunch and a trip to Target. It is then that I ask if my daughter has checked me in for my flight. She booked it for me weeks ago and it is now five hours before departure. Only now, do we discover she booked the nonrefundable and nontransferable flight in her own name, not mine. Needless to say, all hell broke loose. It took one hour and twenty minutes to resolve. Only later was I able to see this mishap as the gift it was. Because I was extremely annoyed I didn’t have time to feel nostalgic that our summer together was over. All of this made parting relatively painless. I left her with a quick kiss on the cheek and walked into the Long Beach airport grateful for my boarding pass.
The season of endings and new beginnings is now underway, and soon my starting college freshman will be gone and I will be an empty nester in earnest. One goodbye is now over, I hope the second one goes as well as the first. Luckily, I booked my own flight home for that one.
Love and blessings to all.