Thirty years ago, this month, I graduated high school. Tomorrow, my only daughter will celebrate her high school commencement. It's a tough time for me, this letting go. Some days, I've been downright mopey. Other days, I smile and remember how far we've come together -- how many great memories we've shared. For her, it's a time of looking forward. Sure, there are tears but for the most part, it's joy and anticipation. And sometimes, when I'm lucky and she has a moment, we reflect.
Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles 30 years ago. I was glued to the television, a fairy tale in the making. This year, when Kate married Will, my daughter didn't really care. Sure, she knew about it and glanced at the photos, but it wasn't a meaningful moment in her life. I've been wondering why. I hope it isn't too many readings of The Paper Bag Princess, but it may be that. (If you haven't read the children's book, the gist is the girls saves herself from the dragon as the wimpy prince hides. Then she tells the prince she'd rather wear a paper bag than trade her freedom for a palace full of designer duds. Ok, I'm over-simplifying but you have the point.)
You see, as the daughter of a self-proclaimed women's rights advocate, she's been raised to make her own dreams come true. She has heard my life lesson stories: of liking boys because they liked me instead of liking somebody first; of being paid less than my equal-ranked male coworker; of being told by an editor that my personal finance piece would be about jewelry or fur, because that's what women know; of filing a class action law suit for gender discrimination and sexual harassment; and, of trying to take a stand and push forward, whenever possible.
So, my daughter isn't a shrinking violet, but she isn't a thorny rose, either. She's taken the positive messages and leapt over so many hurdles, so gracefully, already. She knows intimately what it means to be a woman and a girl in what still, remains, unfortunately, a man's world. She has three brothers to keep her reminded of that fact. Most importantly, she is comfortable in her own skin. She might not know exactly what she'll do with the rest of her life -- she's an undecided college-bound kid -- but she knows the future is bright.
Watching Lady Di in 1981 we saw a less-than-fully formed woman swept into a system that she didn't fully understand, and couldn't master. In 2011, we watched a confident Kate Middleton sweep into a moment in history she helped to design. My daughter and I mirror these women in a basic way. (If you take away all the royalty, wealth, glamor and the fact we're American not British). My daughter is confident and composed. She amazes me every day with her strength and thoughtfulness.
I was, on the other hand, a more fragile, afraid version of my daughter at her age. I was excited for college, but I'd never been away from home. My inner perfectionist kept me from fully enjoying the moments ahead of me. I placed so much pressure on myself, at the end of high school and through some of college, that I forgot the joy part of undergraduate life.
My daughter will remember the joy. She will make her own path and won't expect equality: she'll be part of the third wave of women who demand it. She, and her fellow college freshmen, next year, will continue the trend of women dominating the ranks of college students nationwide. They will -- by their sheer numbers -- continue the women's equality movement. Individually, some of them will take over the cause, the helms of business, of countries; will continue to create businesses at twice the rate of men, or will continue to lead and nurture the communities they call home.
Above all, my daughter will be a reflection of me, as I am a reflection of my mother. Making choices against what I've told her, because she needs to be her own person, and embracing -- sometimes without even realizing it -- many of the values I hold dear. To me, she is the perfect complement, my special buddy and an amazing person. I could not be more proud of her -- even if she doesn't share my love of royal weddings. There has been so much positive change in the world for women over the past 30 years. And now, for my daughter, I know the best is yet to come.