Signaled by excessive sniffling, watery eyes and intermittent nose-blowing, the Maryland season we all know so well has arrived.
It's graduation time.
Some of us thought the weeks of celebratory send-offs would be less emotional with our second or third child. But we were wrong.
No matter what, it is always easier to be the one moving on instead of the one remaining behind. After all, the one leaving is infused with an adventurer's energy; he or she can't help but be enthusiastic about the opportunity to live and work in a new environment. Even the simplest, most ordinary tasks - finding your way around, discovering a place that makes great burritos, or meeting a new friend - seem to sparkle with the sheen of pure accomplishment
But for those of us waving goodbye, there's just no way to avoid the obvious vacancy and subsequent sense of loss we feel when we pass an empty bedroom or chair at the kitchen table, and hear the strange sound of quiet around the house.
On the upside, there will be a lot less laundry. We won't need to run the dishwasher so much because there won't be so many friends over all the time. We won't have to join in the desperate, frantic hunt for your cell phone in the two minutes before you have to leave the house in the morning. We can listen to our choice of positively sedating music whenever we want.
And of course, we are happy for you. Really, we are. Because we ushered you to this point, and it's been a wild ride, with us alternately pushing you and holding you back.
In fact, somebody really ought to be organizing a class night for the parents. You know what? We deserve a few awards at a public ceremony. And some of us would frankly appreciate the opportunity to have a decent date - and I'm referring to my own spouse here - at the prom.
My point is, we are to be congratulated at this juncture, too. Because we have graduated from your growing-up years. And when we look back at your childhood, we can't help but notice that we performed a lot of simple, ordinary tasks that now seem to sparkle with the sheen of pure accomplishment. Let's review:
We toilet-trained you. This was not as easy as you think. Until this moment, we have spared you many embarrassing details, such as the fact that we used to read you a very strange book called Once Upon a Potty. We felt ludicrous reading you this book, but it was recommended by friends with overachieving 2-year-olds. In teaching you this life skill, you taught us something very important in return, which, if I recall, was: "You're not the boss of me."
We did the math facts drills daily. We regret that we did not help you advance to the gold level in the third grade, but the nines tables were still giving us a bit of trouble.
We went to the emergency room with you, at least once. And we emerged with profound gratitude.
We drove you around. To lacrosse practice, clarinet lessons, cooking classes and countless other activities you became enamored of for periods of weeks, months or years.
We waited. In the preschool dismissal line, in the lobby, in the car pool lane, in the parking lot. And in the process, we met lifelong friends. Thanks for that.
We made you decide. How many chicken nuggets? How many friends at the sleepover? How many classes? We let you learn hard lessons for yourself. This was hardest of all for us.
We let you go. First on the kindergarten school bus, with the scary big kids. Eventually, in the driver's seat of the family car, without us.
It was natural and terrifying, and it still is. But that's love for you. Congratulations to the Class of 2008.
To contact Janet or hear podcasts, visit www.janetgilbert.net.