If your mother wrote a weekly humor column and you were graduating from college this weekend, now really, what would you expect? You would expect a witty and insightful retrospective, composed in a letter format and printed in The Baltimore Sun.
Dear Experimental Child,
At last, the truth can come out — we really didn't know what we were doing when we brought you, our firstborn, into this imperfect world.
My most vivid memory of your first night home is of picking you up at around 2:30 in the morning. It was your third or fourth time up that night, you couldn't possibly have been hungry. I remember looking helplessly at your dad—our eyes filling up with tears as we tried to comfort a flailing, wailing you. I could easily say we were so moved because we were sleep-deprived, but I know the truth. It was because you were so incredibly tiny, and yet in your presence we suddenly realized we were even smaller and more vulnerable.
We put on a good act, though, in the ensuing years, reading all the parenting books to make sure that we would never repeat the minor mistakes of our own parents. Indeed, we moved forward confidently to commit even more egregious ones on our own.
In spite of our ineptitude, you thrived and flourished. And I'd like to thank you for blazing the path for your younger sister and brother, who benefited immensely from our more relaxed, mature parenting style. Possibly.
Thanks, also, for always selecting nonfiction science books as your preschool bedtime selections. Sure, it was tough reclining on your toddler bed at the end of a long day to read aloud riveting gems of prose such as: "Mercury's diameter measures 4879.4 kilometers, and it has a surface temperature ranging from -173° Celsius to 427° Celsius." But I must admit that I am pretty smart on the solar system now, and I actually enjoy watching the Science Channel.
As you grew, you continued your firstborn's mission to keep us on our game, throwing us into situations where we had to improvise to keep you on track. In middle school, you inspired the Gilbert family "Back to the 1930s" punishment, where you are not permitted to do anything for a specified period of time that was not available to you as a child in the 1930s. Cleverly, you decided that these punishments were actually opportunities to take up the exciting, dangerous and supervised hobbies of whittling, shooting a BB gun and rock climbing. So we all had to live in the 1930s with you. And, leapin' lizards, that was fun.
In high school, you continued your personal commitment never to show your work in math and to complete as much homework as possible on the morning bus. You took Korean lessons. You collected all the works of American poet Billy Collins. You performed the role of the charming Devil convincingly in "Damn Yankees."
Ultimately, you financed most of your undergraduate education with a scholarship at St. Mary's College of Maryland, which, as it turns out, welcomes unusual students like you. How proud we feel, your father and I. And old. But old in a good way — the way it probably feels in other cultures, where elders are accorded deference because of their experience and intelligence. You made us stay ahead of your learning curve, and it's been a wild ride. You made us who we are today.
So I hope you will accept this, our resignation letter, because our job is essentially over. Not that we are not going to listen and continue to give unwanted advice — in fact, you might want to put on a jacket. But after 21 years, we have completed our course requirements on the raising of you.
I have to say, it's looking like we aced the class.
Love, Mom and Dad.