From Baby Steps to College Prep (and everything in between)


“The great paradox of parenting is that it moves in both slow motion and fast speed”


The year 2020 was quite a distant concept back when our friendly, inquisitive young daughter first enthusiastically started grammar school many years ago.  Back then, the fact that she would be graduating from high school with the class of 2020 was eons away: a far-removed milestone, non-threatening and quickly dismissed with the wave of a more pressing to-do list.  Not so much anymore.  As Lucy’s final trimester of high school is rapidly approaching, I find myself assembling a mental scrapbook, replete with images, of all the “lasts” we are reluctantly experiencing.  Last August, I dropped her off at the curb for her last first day of high school.  In September, we celebrated her last birthday at home as a high school student.  Come October, I emotionally cheered from the stands during her very last high school volleyball game, tearfully applauding while her name was announced amongst those of the graduating Seniors.  Now that the year 2020 is well underway, all these “lasts” are rushing at us much faster and definitely with more impact.


When not lamenting the many “lasts” that still lie ahead in the not too distant future, my brain (or what’s left of it) also runs through a laundry list of things our girl will need to know before taking off for her college experience.  We know from her report cards that she’s done the scholastic legwork, but what else?  Does she know how to make her own meals?  Check.  Do her own laundry?  Check.  Be a good roommate?  Hmmm.  She’s an only child who never shared a bedroom, so we are not too sure about that one.  From the looks of the current state of hers, confidence levels are not running high and I admittedly can’t wait to re-arrange her soon-to-be vacant space into a vastly more organized area.  But what about the more challenging aspects of managing her own life? Can she say no to invitations and temptations that will not serve her best interests or worse, lead her into real trouble?  Will she recognize and embark upon any promising opportunities that could potentially shape a successful future?  And for crying out loud would she ever grace us with a periodic call home so we know she’s still alive, and not just because she’s out of money?


These days as Lucy makes her own decisions whether we like them or not, my husband and I often glance at each other with a mutual shrug that reads “Eh! We raised this kid into an independent young lady; it’s out of our hands now.” “¯\_(ツ)_/¯“ But can we really be sure as parents that we taught her everything she needs to know?  Back when reading Michelle Obama’s exceptional memoir, her fascinating story inspired me to ponder many topics:  career, marriage, and family, and the complex relationships in between.  She revealed some thoughts on what she had learned from her parents, and soon I found myself thinking back on what values and skills my own parents taught a young me.  My dad? He was big on old school Midwestern values. Respect for a strong work ethic.  Not to take people (especially myself) too seriously.  And last but not least, how to be the life of the party and be funny AF.  And my mom?  She taught us to value family above all else.  To put the people in one’s life first and to always be a good friend. Also to make an effort open our home to one and all, especially when someone we knew had no where else to go.  And both of my parents taught me to be accepting of others, to not buy into bigotry and prejudice, and to never look down on other people.  And, in very different ways, both taught me what I know about how to love.

Certainly, I have both consciously and unconsciously passed down these teachings to my own daughter.  And her father has done the same with what he learned from his parents too.  Jan and I are two very different people, raised in completely different cultures and times; it has been interesting to observe our daughter reveal some of the ways in which each of us has influenced her personality and her point of view.  We all agree that Lucy appears to have inherited easy social skills and grace from her mom’s side, and her love of nature and the outdoors from her dad’s. Because of our differences, it’s usually pretty easy to tell from which of us she learned or picked up any particular characteristic or personality trait.  But in the end it is quite clear that Lucy is also her own person, and that some of who she has become has very little to do with either of us.


In about a week, our Lucy will begin attending the very last of her high school classes.  I sit here shaking my head, hardly able to believe that this day is already almost here. And while I try to gain some control and brace myself for the tsunami of emotions that are already rushing over me as we head toward graduation day and beyond, I remind myself to be less mournful over my daughters inevitable transition from high school into college, and to be more thrilled for her about the exciting events that lie ahead in her bright future.  And to stop regarding her graduation and subsequent move out of the house (through an unavoidable river of tears) as the end of all our familial closeness and good times.  Part of the good news is that I am not alone, and right now there is a whole senior class of moms at our school and others who are traveling through the very same tsunami right along with me (Ladies, you know who you are and I feel you!).  The other good news is that the “lasts” will come to their inevitable end, also leaving each and every one of us poised to begin, again.

©2020 Lisa Ihnken, all rights reserved; images excepted.

12 thoughts on “From Baby Steps to College Prep (and everything in between)

  1. Ahhh – a lovely, poignant post Lisa. I feel ya. Luca has already graduated so we don’t have a high school student anymore! She’s a working girl….


  2. Hi Lisa! I can’t believe Lucy is a senior and soon to go off to college…how did that happen so fast! Can you send me a short bio (just 2-3 sentences) of her for our School of the Madeleine newsletter? I would imagine you are in the middle of college selection but when she settles on a university can you send me something? Our deadline is the beginning of May.

    Hope you are well and I enjoy your blogs!



    1. Debbie its SO great to hear from you!! Thank you so much for your message and yes, I am more than happy to send you anything you need. We are waiting to hear from half the list of schools she applied to and I will keep you posted as she makes her big decision. Sending hugs! Lisa ox


  3. Oh Lisa, I feel you, I really do. Our daughter, unbelievably, will be graduating from college in just a few months and indeed, that first year away was a doozy. At times the emotions were so raw I literally felt like a bucket of ice water had been heaved at me. Camden was really unhappy that first semester, but somehow she dug deep (and so did I).

    Flash forward to three days ago. She picked up the phone just to “catch me up”. She asked my husband and me to join her in Vegas for spring break because “we bring the fun”. Never did I ever expect those gestures. Camden knows how to be on her own (she’s a few states away) yet says she feels the most comfortable knowing we’re close in spirit.

    You’re on your way to calibrating a good balance by trying to be happy for Lucy and her journey. Having a daughter is such a gift, and as you acknowledge having it good now, get ready for the treat of Lucy growing up. She will always need you and lean on you and love you. Hang tough, Lisa, and pad your heart.


    1. I am speechless with awe and respect for your thoughtful and heartfelt comments Janice. Thank you so very much for sharing these feelings and insights. Friends like you will help make things easier for me as I negotiate my way through this transition. With love L OXOXO


  4. Cousin Lisa,
    Wow, we’ve been there, too! Your post is beautiful & heartfelt. I do remember the college visits. Julia chose Washington University in St. Louis. Dropping her off & moving her into her dorm resulted in the worst migraine of my life! Amazingly we all survived! She’s now an MD, married, and a new Mom.
    Hang in there, and we send you much love.


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