Bittersweet, that's what it was, sitting with my husband and oldest daughter across a desk from the counselor at school. Not the school psychologist, mind you. Or the academic counselor. The college counselor, for my daughter, who is closing in on her junior year of high school.
Yes college: a place that seemed very far off until very recently.
And so we listened and the counselor talked... spouting statistics about standardized testing, the merits of the SAT versus the ACT, AP credits and application time tables. And then lobbed questions, lots of them: What do you want to study? How big a school? Geographical preferences? Any interest in your dad's alma mater? "That's way over in Scotland," I thought. Too far.
It was odd and oddly okay to be sitting there talking about something I wasn't sure I was ready for. But this is it. What we've wanted for her. To grow up, pursue her passions, find her wings.
The meeting was coming to a close; my daughter had to return to class. She stood and looked back at us.
Positively poised, fresh faced, bright and bright eyed, beautiful, most especially to me, her mother, in a way nobody else is. She paused to thank the counselor, said goodbye to all of us, turned and walked to class, her thick curtain of chestnut hair swaying as she went.
I turned my gaze back to the counselor who asked if we had any other questions. And I did, but then opened my mouth, and found myself saying something entirely unexpected,
"I'm going to cry now," I announced, barely able to get the words out. My eyes filled and tears caught in my throat, stopping me from saying another word.
My husband came to the rescue, asking a question of his own, saving the counselor and me from the awkward silence in the room.
As they talked, I looked at my knees, trying to regain composure, and wondering why, exactly, I was crying. It wasn't what I would have predicted. It wasn't the overwhelming ache over how quickly she's grown up and how soon she'll be gone.
No, these were tears of relief. And motherly pride.
We spend years caring and hoping and loving and ferrying our children, worrying all the while if they will ever grow up. Be the good citizen that we want them to be. Learn to use the potty, tell the truth, be on time, dress themselves, be kind, make their own breakfast, buckle their seatbelt, make friends, use a napkin, do their homework, say thank you.
We've passed all of those milestones. This giant experiment of parenting our first child to adulthood is nearly complete. She can hold her own. She's bright-eyed. She says thank you.
She will leave our nest. She will find her wings.
I know she'll be ready. As for me, well, that's another question.
BITTERSWEET SYRUP FOR HOT OR COLD DRINKING CHOCOLATE
In our house, we usually drink our milk straight up, but I'm not above making things a little special by serving up a warm cup of cocoa or cold glass of chocolate milk, especially on cranky mornings or moody afternoons. This is a a very unfancy, homemade, beautifully glossy chocolate syrup that is a tasty alternative to what you'll find in the supermarket, products that often have artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and mystery ingredients. This homespun version takes just minutes to prepare and will keep in your fridge for a very long time. When the mood for a glass of cold milk or mug of hot cocoa strikes, add a spoonful of the syrup, stir, and slurp.
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Put the cocoa powder, sugar, and water into a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring regularly with a whisk, until the mixture melts into a syrup and just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla.
Pour syrup into a glass jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To make a glass or mug of drinking chocolate, add 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons syrup to 1 cup of warm or cold milk. Stir and serve.