I don’t know what the paper will look like when I sign it. It might be mostly bare with a large line waiting for my scrawl. It might be dense with fine print, all of which I should read first, but the content of which I already know. I sign the paper and my third child is done with high school. She’ll still attend one class on campus, but only because she wants to, not because it is needed for her diploma. The paper changes her from needing 28 credits to graduate from her high school to needing 24 credits and graduating from the school district. It is an option that is not advertised, it is rolled out and explained only in answer to need. I was prepared to ask for it when I went to the school to explain the state of my child, but it was offered before I wound the conversation to where I could ask.
I sign one paper and one stage of life is over, the next one begins. I’ve spent eighteen years tracking, supporting, cajoling, helping so that she could have a high school diploma. Now that diploma is guaranteed. She already has more than the required 24 credits. She could walk away from all of her classes if she chose. Instead she chose to keep one. That this shift nearly coincides with her eighteenth birthday only underlines the change. We’ll probably forgo all the trappings of graduation, skipping the cap-and-gown ceremony for something quieter and smaller. She doesn’t want them. I see no reason to insist.
From here, my responsibility in relation to her is far different. She gets to make the choices, try, fail, pick herself up to try again. I step back to a support role. Advisory status with attached financial support. And as soon as she figures out how not to need that financial support, she won’t have to listen to me at all. She will listen, because she is smart, kind, and empathetic, but she won’t have to.
Strange how triumph can arrive so quietly without looking like triumph at all.