Last Wednesday night, Kai woke me from an allergy/Benadryl induced deep sleep at 12:30 a.m. “Ling’s wailing. You better go check on her.”
I dragged myself out of bed and Kai was right. It was the week after Ling took 4 AP tests and 2 days from the last day of her high school career. What could be so bad that my normally stoic child was reduced to sobs?
3 take home on-line calculus tests.
3 tests that students could use any books or online resources to solve–which means books and online resources weren’t very helpful. After over 3 hours of slogging away with the first one, she had scored 37.5. Out of 100.
Now she was halfway through the 2nd test and didn’t know how to solve a single problem. She showed me her textbook—a slim paragraph that provided no illumination at all.
As Ling wailed that she was going to flunk calculus, not graduate from high school and get kicked out of college before even stepping foot on campus, I fought to break through my Benadryl haze and think like a parent. I tried to calm her down, saying I was sure Colby still wanted her and that something would get worked out.
And then our CO monitor right next to her bedroom went blaring, piercing our eardrums so we had to plug our ears. I ran upstairs, woke Scott and told him to deal with the CO monitor while I dealt with our daughter. 10 minutes later, he stuck his head into her room, ear plastered to his cell phone and pushed the screaming CO monitor into my hands saying he had an emergency at work and I needed to call the gas company because the monitor said it wasn’t carbon monoxide, but noxious gas.
By 1:45 a.m., the gasman had come and determined the problem was an old battery and older CO monitor. I told Ling that she wasn’t going to learn calculus at 1:45 in the morning and to just soldier through the other tests—then talk to her teacher the next day.
I volunteered to stay with her until she finished, lying on her bed while she fruitlessly worked.
Ling turned 18 on Monday, 5 days after that debacle.
18 years ago today, as I left the hospital with my 2 day old who fit between my fingers and elbow, I couldn’t imagine life 18 years later. I had no clue how the journey of parenting would break me down—how I’d face all my deepest evils and feel so truly incompetent. How sometimes I’d hate my children so much I couldn’t stand being in their presence one more second.
I also couldn’t imagine the delight each child would bring, the joy of seeing each blossom and develop in skills and capabilities, the incredible pleasure of them becoming more competent than me at everything from swimming to piano to academics. How I’d love them with a gut-crunching love. What a privilege it has been to walk with each of them through their ups and downs.
18 years ago I stayed up all night, waiting, watching, breathing through contractions to bring Ling into the world. Last Wednesday night I stayed up until 3:30 a.m., waiting, watching, unable to solve a single one of her problems but praying my presence would at least be a comfort.
My ability to solve her problems will continue to steadily decrease as will her desire for me to do so. Perhaps in this next phase of parenting, my main job, like last Wednesday, will be to watch, wait and let her know I’m by her side.