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My Baby Is Graduating

“It’s Rina’s last high school play,” I sobbed to my married daughter sitting next to me

MY baby is graduating from 12th grade.

How can a baby graduate from 12th grade? That’s what I want to know! My baby is also getting her driver’s license — another conundrum. How do I feel about it? Panicky, sad, devastated, like I desperately want to hold time back and say, “No, no, not her, too.” Do I really have to face that my daughter will be in seminary in Eretz Yisrael next year, away from her mamma? I saw all the rest of them up and fly the nest, but my baby? That doesn’t even make sense.

But nobody asked me, and the years have passed. Rina begs me at every turn to let her drive the car. “I’ll run errands for you,” she pleads, “pick up the clothes from the dry cleaners, do your grocery shopping. Don’t you want me to help you?”

“Of course I do darling, there’s a good girl, just pick up that spoon I dropped on the floor. You can help me peel the carrots for Yom Tov. I’ll even let you use a real peeler. How’s that?”

Everything I’ve dreaded and never had much patience for about my children’s school years now seems so dear to me. For example, I never enjoyed attending parent-teacher conferences. I recall that time two years ago, when I was on my way straight from work to PTA and I got a call from Rina.

“I don’t want you to go to PTA unless you come home and change first,” she said.

I wasn’t about to come home, change, and go back out, so guess what? I didn’t go. It was Rina’s decision, so she couldn’t blame me, and that’s all that counts, right? I was thrilled. But suddenly, with no more PTA meetings in sight for the rest of my life, I’m devastated.

And school plays. Choirs and dances I could handle, but I anticipated school plays with only slightly more enthusiasm than stepping barefoot on a piece of Lego. I’m a good mother, though, and I dutifully attended every one of my daughters’ school plays for the last 25 years. This year was my baby’s very last one.

Initially, I was looking forward to the fact that this would be the last time I’d have to sit through three and a half hours of painful tedium with a frozen smile on my face. I was excited that this would be the last time I’d have to clap until my hands tingled after every single solo (although Rina’s solo was amazing). Yet I could not hold back my tears. “It’s Rina’s last high school play,” I sobbed to my married daughter sitting next to me.

I’m beginning to be teary-eyed about everything to do with my baby. We threw a graduation party for her last week, and I had a hard time getting into the, “Yay, school is finally over! I’m free!” spirit every time I looked at her and recalled that in just a few short months she’d be far from home, celebrating happy occasions and Yamim Tovim in Eretz Yisrael.

When the party was over and everyone had gone home, I turned on some music to accompany me as I washed the dishes. As the music grew leibedig, I — uncharacteristically — started to dance. Rina came into the kitchen and started dancing with me. There we were dancing together, just me and Rina, and I told her, “I’m thinking of us dancing together at your chasunah, b’shaah tovah.” (Just in case I wasn’t feeling emotional enough.)

Rina’s graduation picture is the lock screen on my cell phone (masochist that I am), and I feel like crying every time I look at it. Is it because babies don’t wear makeup?

Or is it that no matter how proud and grateful I am that, with the help of Hashem, we’ve reached this monumental milestone, I’m not quite ready. For so long, my life has revolved around raising my children; it’s daunting to realize that the job is mostly done.

Who am I without a child to pick up from one friend’s house at eleven thirty at night to drive to another friend so they can finish studying for their finals?

Stay tuned for the next conundrum — my baby’s wedding day, b’ezras Hashem.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 898)

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