That wondrous moment when, as a parent, you take a step back, and are able to see your child for the miraculous individual that she truly is: the person that your little one has become, the way that other people see her.
It's taken seventeen years, perhaps because most of those years were spent in such delicious closeness with my three girls, both physically and emotionally. It was a privilege to be a stay-at-home parent, and to be so intricately intertwined with their little lives. I thought I knew everything about them, right down to the colour of the underwear they had chosen that morning... But what I didn't completely understand was that inside those little people, no matter what I was doing to shape and mold them into grown-up, civilized human beings, they were becoming their own people, with secret thoughts and longings completely separate from me. Sure, the "Manners Maketh Man" and "Virtues of Modest Dress and Behaviour" lessons have stood them in very good stead. Some of what I've taught them will (hopefully) keep them out of jail, and off the pole. My example of parenting will give them a reference when they are raising children of their own one day, as my own mum and dad's example did for me.
This year, I've been juggling the more-than-full-time schedule of teaching a challenging classroom of troubled students, with the parenting of my own three girlies. My attention has been diverted-- and I've had extreme difficulties with trying to divide "fairly" between the two lives I seem to be leading. It's a challenge to find enough hours in the day to get everything done, not to mention mustering the overwhelming effort to stay AWAKE.
I've been juggling as fast as I can. But, apparently, in spite of all good intentions, I've been dropping balls all over the place.
My girls have been maintaining a reduced schedule of extra-curricular activities out of necessity. I'll admit that on any given day, as they all pile into the loser-cruiser at the mid-afternoon mark, I have to ask them to remind me of three things: the day of the week, which direction I should be pointing the car in, and to whom I should address the payment cheques.
Truth: I don't know whether I'm coming or going most of the time... but it's a pretty good bet that I'm usually going.
Child number one is now seventeen: an age where extra-curricular activities are even more important than school and maintaining good grades. The struggle to gain acceptance at our best universities is becoming harder, and the requirements broader. Faculties want talented PEOPLE, thank goodness-- not just kids who can spit out facts like robots.
And so, it has been for Child Number One that we have done most of the driving and cheque-writing this year.
She is music-- always has been. From the moment that she could sit up straight on her gramma's knee, she reached out towards the piano keys that were faithfully positioned in front of her.
She was not pushed.
She has been reaching forward ever since, and has achieved a remarkable amount in her young life.
Music set her free when she emerged from elementary school, and I will be forever grateful for the wonderful teachers who have supported, encouraged and mentored her along the way. Her band schedule has been rigorous, and the friendships developed along the way will hopefully last her a lifetime. I have felt secure in the fact that the pool from which she chooses her friends has sorted the "wheat" from the "chaff" in advance-- because the kids in her programs are some of the brightest, most empathetic, hard-working and talented individuals that I've ever come across in one place.
Her flute has simply become an extension of her body. It is her voice, not just her instrument anymore.
Several weeks ago, I drove her and the young colleague who served as her accompanist to compete at one of the largest music festivals in the province. I knew what they were playing... I had heard them practice.
But, I'll confess, in the frenzy of daily life, I hadn't truly been listening.
My girl stood up at the front of that enormous room, calmly introduced herself to the adjudicator, and began to play.
I was overwhelmed.
Who was this incredible, self-assured beauty? Where on earth did she come from? How did she do it?
I sat alone for those few amazing minutes with my heart in my hands.
And then, it was over.
The adjudicator approached her, and spoke softly:
I wish more people had had the chance to hear you."
They talked for a few minutes longer about quality of tone and range, and he asked her questions about her training and plans for the future.
And then, he awarded her first class honours.
As I rose to leave, he came over to where I was seated.
"Thank you," he said.
They were the sweetest words that anyone has ever said to me; the greatest compliment I've ever been paid.
Yes, I saw my child as the person she's become, and I glimpsed the even more incredible individual that she is blossoming into last night, centre-stage, at the MacMillan Theatre in Toronto. She was chosen to perform with the Denis Wick Canadian Wind Orchestra at MusicFest this week, and was granted the honour of "Most Promising Flutist" by the faculty.
With all of the awe I feel comes the knowledge that she'll be leaving me soon, to spread her wings wide, and embrace all that life has to offer.
I trust that she knows, no matter how high she soars, I'll be close behind, watching in wonder, and supporting her all the way.