Sisterhood Blog

Reflections on My Daughter's High School Graduation

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

My daughter is graduating high school today. This is a huge moment in life — probably more for her than for me, although I’m not sure — and the mass of thoughts and emotions are a bit overwhelming.

The moment Avigayil was born, I was born as well. Her entry in the universe was transformative for me, as she turned me from person into parent — a permanent alteration, a complete reconfiguration of all one knows to be true in the world. This tiny, spectacular creature who has, at different times, kept me up at night (more recently than one might think), sent me running and chasing, challenged some of my most basic beliefs and completely unhinged me, has also taught me how to love unconditionally, how to stretch beyond the limitations of my experience and how to imagine a different world. Somehow, despite the fact that she came out of my body a mere 18 years ago, her vision of life is completely her own, her identity proudly independent and strong. I am in awe of her entire person, and her continued presence, the blessed intertwining of our journeys, has been nothing short of a divine gift.

There is something profoundly sad for me, too.

When she was little, I had so many ideas about how I was going to raise her, about what I was going to teach her and show her and explore with her. The energy I had when she was a toddler to take her to the zoo and say, “Monkey! Can you be a monkey, too?” has gradually dissipated. I thought I would have the same enthusiasm when I would teach her about religion, politics and friendship. As in, “Look, that’s a political argument!” or “Look, that’s a best friend!” or “Look, that’s a first love!” It never happened quite that way, dreams of parenthood became realities of family life, and now it feels like it’s all over. I cannot redo her childhood, go back to when she was 11 or 7 and speak to that part of her mind. I cannot help but feel like I have been profoundly inadequate.

At the same time, she’s off on this monumental transition and the possibilities are spectacular. What a fantastic moment in life! I want her to see the world and meet interesting people and journey experience all the abundance of connections and awareness and humanity that the world has to offer. I want her to live boundlessly, to feel the sky and the earth and the wind, to run and jump and fly through life, to let her spirit stretch beyond what is perceived as possible.

Mostly, at this moment, I want to give her something to take with her on her journey, some kind of great wisdom. I feel like my job right now as a parent is to adequately arm her as she takes these first steps into the wide world. I want to be both her protector and her enabler, her grounding and her springboard, her home and her entire galaxy. I want to be there with her, but I want her to be free of me. I want to be in her heart, but I want her heart to go further than what I can offer her. I want to give her a piece of my own spirit to always have with her — so I will always have a piece of hers in me — but I don’t want her to be bound by my own limitations.

But I don’t really know how to do all this. I know motherhood never really ends, and yet it feels like the scenes in which I have lines in this production are over.

All that remains, I think, is love. All I can equip her with in this life is the knowledge — complete, uncompromising and uninhibited — that she is loved. It seems to me that there are two types of people in this world, those who know that they are loved and those who don’t. The former are the ones who live fully, without fear and inhibition. And that’s what I want for my daughter. I want her to go through life with the unquestioning knowledge that she is fully loved, that she can go and do anything and there will be people behind her — her mother, her father, her siblings — who always have her back, who support her, trust her and believe in her no matter what. I think that such knowledge combats fear, the kind of fear that keeps people from living fully. And that is what I have to give her.

So this is my gift to you, Avigayil, as you embark on this remarkable journey called life. I am no longer the mother who will bake cookies with you, show you the animals, take you to your gymnastics class or drive you to school. But I am and will continue to be the mother who loves you with my whole heart and soul. I am your greatest cheerleader in life, the one in the stands watching as you go and fly. Take my love, and live.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Parenting, Motherhood, Graduation

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.