31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Big Changes, New Challenges!

Single with Children: Countdown for end of year begins

Publication Date: 05/22/02

The last weeks of school always are filled with activity and chaos, and this year is proving to be no different, except for the fact that my daughter is in her final week of public education. Period. We're talking finished. Graduation. The brass ring.

I keep intending to figure out how we got here, but I haven't had a lot of time to do that, as if I really could. Things like the prom, senior projects and other assorted details keep getting in the way, and I guess that's just as well. I'll have plenty of time for reflection later on when she begins classes next fall and I absentmindedly keep looking for her as I pick up my son from high school.

There has been a lot of laughter and giddiness in the house lately. On the dry erase board in the kitchen, my son has a countdown of the days and hours until he is finally free of the demands of ninth grade. The rest of the time he can be found on the driveway with four or five friends performing tricks on his skateboard. I'm pretty sure I've added extra wrinkles from all the cringing I've been doing of late. I've even started to notice ads for Botox.

Have you ever stood on a skateboard? I was "challenged" a few days ago. With the assistance and cajoling of several teens who promised to keep the thing from sliding underneath me, I stood on what I have come to think of as a concrete surf board.

Let me tell you, black ice would have felt more stable. I let them push me a few feet and came off thinking it wasn't such a good idea.

I felt a lot better when I didn't realize how unsteady those things are; in this case, my ignorance was far more blissful.

Thankfully, these last few days haven't all been so dangerous. I had the fun of helping Katie get ready for prom. Mostly, I was invited to help her create a 1940s-era hairstyle to go with the dress her grandparents had bought for the occasion. It was so much fun playing with rollers and hair gel and enough hairspray to hold the completed design in place.

We laughed at the memory of times I used to try and trim her bangs when she was in elementary school, which, I believe, is the last time she allowed me near her hair. No matter how hard I tried - and initially she was much too young to realize how crooked things turned out - I never could seem to get it straight. Not even close! I think it was around second grade when she gently, but firmly, told me that she would not allow me near her with a pair of scissors. I had to accept that trimming hair just wasn't one of my talents.

Fortunately, she realized that I could do little damage with electric rollers and a curling iron. The end result was breathtaking and after a prolonged photo session that must have resembled a White House press conference, she and her handsome escort left for an evening that I will never forget, because I spent most of it sifting through her old school photos wondering how she could be old enough to be attending a prom.

In a few days, the culmination of 12 years of public education will arrive. My daughter will be among a large group of graduating seniors. Her father and stepmother, along with her brother, her grandparents and her boyfriend will be joining us to celebrate this incredible milestone.

Now, I don't know a lot about the stock market, but don't be too surprised if you see the company that produces Kleenex report a market jump. I've also been auditioning waterproof mascara, and I'm just not sure any of them will be able to handle the ultimate test of graduation day.

As we gather for dinner on the evening of her graduation, like many families across the United States we will be a blended family. I have to admit that when Katie was born, I never imagined there would be the entity of a stepparent, but then again, who does? Divorce has dramatically changed the face of the American family.

However, what I wish most of all, as Katie surveys those in attendance to celebrate her special day, is that she will feel the enormous amount of love and respect that we all share for the young woman she has become.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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