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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Lessons my daughter has learned

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Susan Dvorkin, Special to The CJN

Like many parents, my summer was spent with the onerous task of assembling the necessary gear and supplies to send my daughter to the University of Western Ontario this fall. The thought of preparing my child for this new and exciting stage in her life, both physically and emotionally, was a feeling I had never experienced before.

I had always done all I could to help guide and prepare her for every situation thus far in her life, from choosing her clothes for that first day of nursery and helping with class projects to more recently, sitting uneasily as she practised driving. I could provide her with the towels, linens and staplers, but what if she needed more than that? Who would calm her nerves as she prepared for her first exam or help guide her around a huge campus?

The idea of packing up an 18-year- old and moving her from Calgary to London, Ont., was overwhelming. What would she need, where should we buy it and how can we possibly transport all of it were only some of the initial questions that kept me up at night. All the while, my daughter slept soundly in her bed, with the safe knowledge that as long as she could bring all of her clothes, there were no other worries. After all, I had always done the worrying for both of us.

On move-in day, we were greeted by no less than a dozen smiling Western students who unloaded our car and carried everything up three flights of stairs, leaving it all outside the door of her room. Next stop was the student centre to pick up school cards and books, along with thousands of other first-year students, who all looked as glassy-eyed as my daughter. Lastly, she was swept off to a house meeting, where all the new residents were pumped up with cheers and encouragement for the year ahead.

The teary, emotional goodbye that I envisioned was not to be, as more events followed the meeting. With panic and fear, my daughter looked at me and said, “I have to go. I think this is goodbye.” We hugged, said goodbye and I wished her good luck for this exciting new adventure. It was somewhat anti-climactic, but in retrospect, it was the best possible way to say goodbye.

Less than a month into this experience, I have discovered that although I was concerned about how she would fare, my daughter is thriving in her new life. She has made many new friends, has not gotten lost and has taken numerous bus trips for groceries and supplies. She has taken the train to Toronto, attended Hillel and Chabad events, and has even joined a club to volunteer at the London Children’s Hospital.

In a short time, she has learned a great deal about herself, and I have as well. As parents, we do what we can for our children, and at times I felt that perhaps I did too much for her and she would not have the tools necessary to make it on her own. I have now discovered that all the guidance, encouragement and emotional support that she has received from me had made the greatest difference now, when it really matters.

Help choosing clothes or help studying for exams was only a fraction of what she received in preparation for “life.” She gained information with every interaction that we’ve had, and whether she actively participated or was a passive observer, all of this vital information was banked and stored for this time. She’s growing and receiving the best education possible, one that’s not found in any textbook. She’s finding her way, spreading her wings and soaring.

I couldn’t be prouder!

Susan Dvorkin lives in Calgary.

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