06/03/2014 11:05 am ET Updated Aug 03, 2014

Closing Time: Graduating Out into the World

Jennifer Ball

Closing Time.

Despite the fact that it's been played billions of times and on countless shows and movies (remember when it was on Friends?), it remains one of my favorite songs, sung by one of my favorite singers. Dan Wilson wrote the words and they have been bouncing around inside my head for fifteen years... they've fit a few situations but perhaps never as achingly well as they do right now:

Closing time, open all the doors,
And let you out into the world,
Closing time, turn all of the lights on,
Over every boy and every girl.

My daughter, Molly, has less a week left before she's done with high school. I'm just beginning to feel the pangs of graduation party psychosis (warning: don't go to Pinterest for grad party ideas unless you are comfortable being in the fetal position for several hours at a time). We've ordered her yearbook and paid her senior fees.

She was accepted into the college she really wanted to attend (she only applied to two, so, phew). The housing deposit has been sent and cashed, financial aid forms filled out and the mental list of "stuff she'll need for the dorm room" is already taking up way too much real estate in my crowded brain.

On a recent Saturday night, she and I hung out together. We were at home, along with two of the boys, which in and of itself is a rarity. That weird stage of life has begun, the one where I often find myself with a quiet house, all my babies scattered hither and yon with their friends. So to have not one, but three of the chicks safely ensconced in the nest was a warm and sweet surprise.

Sweeter, though, and more surprising, was where Molly ended up that night. Not holed up in her room, listening to music or reading or texting her friends, but out in the living room. On the couch. Next to me.

"I'm freezing. Are you cold?" I asked her.

"Kind of. Should I go get my pink blanket?" she replied.

The pink blanket was a favorite Target clearance purchase from several years back. From the esteemed "Shabby Chic" collection, it's like a giant grown-up version of a child's security blanket: heavy, pillowy-soft, with satin edging. She brought it out from her room, and proceeded to lay down next to me... practically on top of me, pulling the blanket over both of us. We lay there like that for quite a while, me not saying a word lest I break the spell, that magical moment where it wasn't teen vs. mom or daughter tolerating mother: It was me and my girl, cuddling together. Like we used to when she was little and things like college and dorms and FAFSA forms were foreign and so far away.

She isn't my first child to step out of one world, the world of high school, and into a new one. Her older brother, Charlie, made the leap two years ago. And yes, I did just as much looking back with watery eyes then as I'm doing now. But like Charlie is wont to do, he did it in his own special way. He chose to approach college in a different manner, and is knocking out all of the humdrum prerequisites at the community college downtown. He lives here at home, does his homework and is diligently racking up credits. He'll transfer to the big state university next year, without any debt and with almost half of the credits he'll need for his degree. He's a smart one, that kid.

But he didn't leave. I think that's the biggie here, the thing that stings. The thing that fills me with so much excitement and at the same time, with so much wistfulness. I still see Charlie every day. Hear his voice, make him meals, nag him about leaving his giant shoes everywhere.

Molly, though... she's leaving. I've seen her pretty much every day of her life. Watched her grow from a fuzzy-headed baby to a strong-willed toddler to a shy kindergartner to a tall, funny and self-confident young woman. I know when she's at work and when she's out with friends, I remind her over and over again to not leave her hair on the walls of the shower, I make her favorite dinner because there are some days a girl just needs curry chicken. She's been my little girl for so long, the only other she in a house filled to the brim with he.

I'm going to miss having her here.

You have these children, you see, and for a long time all you do is raise them. And then one day, you wake up and realize they're raised. You get those 18 years with them, which at first seems like a freaking eternity but, when you get to the end, seems to be nothing more than a wink in time.

Eighteen years to teach them right from wrong, how to bounce back from bad times, how to make friends and hopefully how to keep friends. How to read, how to deposit checks, how to write an essay and how to cut vegetables. How to scrub a toilet and fold a fitted sheet (okay, the toilet yes but gah not the fitted sheet). How to keep promises and tell the truth and be kind and not mean.

Then it's over and you're left with piles of photos, a room that's eerily empty, leftover graduation party cake and a knot in your stomach that is comprised of joy and worry. You pray that you did your job well, and that the young adult you're sending out into the wilds of the world won't be a terrible roommate or a disrespectful student or the kid barfing in the bushes at a kegger. You hope that they listened to your lectures but also heard your laughter. You wish that they find life and all of its messiness to be good and somewhat pleasant and please oh please not too scary.

So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits,
I hope you have found a friend,
Closing time, every new beginning,
Comes from some other beginning's end.

Rumor has it that Mr. Wilson wrote "Closing Time" in anticipation of his impending fatherhood, which makes lovely sense when you read the lyrics.

But I think it works just as well for those of us who are letting our boys and girls out into the world as their childhood comes to a close.

Congratulations to all of the 2014 graduates, including my smart and lovely daughter, Molly.

This post originally appeared on Jennifer's blog, The Happy Hausfrau