Growing up isn’t just for kids: A parent’s rite of passage

It hit home the day I booked the restaurant for my daughter’s university graduation dinner: I’m a grown-up now.

My husband and I had talked it over with my daughter — where would she like to eat, how many of her friends would she like to invite, what time should we make the reservation for?

Then, as I Googled the restaurant’s phone number, I said to my husband, “I guess we’re the ones paying for this.”

He blinked. “Yes, I guess we are.”

It’s not that we begrudge it. It’s a milestone worth celebrating. We love our daughter and enjoy spending time with her friends.

It’s just that I can remember my own university graduation dinner and many other celebrations on many other occasions. There was always somebody else putting down their credit card, somebody else taking responsibility for the evening.

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Now that person is me — fortunately, in this case, not just me — but the buck stops with my husband and myself, and that’s a weird feeling.

We’ve got this

You’d think the realization might have hit sooner — like when my husband and I signed our mortgage document or when I stood on a dock in front of 65 guests wearing a white dress and said, “I will.” 

If not, then certainly on the day — well, okay, the middle of the night — 22 years ago when the midwife handed me all nine pounds of my daughter.

Don’t get me wrong — I knew those were big events. I knew each of them came with a heap of responsibility, but the context was different.

When I experienced those other events, it was for the first time. I formed my own fresh memories: this is what it’s like to buy a house, to get married, to have a child.

But this thing, this being the person who says, “Please bring me the bill,” is different. It’s that moment when everybody else is sipping the dregs of their drink, tucking their phone into their bag, or heading for a quick trip to the bathroom, and none of them are thinking about paying for the meal because they know somebody else has got it. I used to be the one dashing to the bathroom — now, I will be the one putting on drugstore reading glasses, squinting at the numbers, making sure I tip enough.

The gift of time

One of the reasons my husband and I are well-suited is that we agree on spending. I mean money, but I mean more, too.

I mean time and effort.

When it’s time to move either of our kids, we automatically book time off and rent a U-Haul.

If one of them is sick — or homesick — there’s no debate about putting in a few hours and a few hundred kilometres of driving to help them.

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And there was never any doubt that this dinner was going to happen and we were going to pay for it.

The question I always ask myself is, “What are you saving it for?” What are you saving your cash, your hours, and — in the case of a third-floor walk-up student apartment — your knees, for?

Each person has to answer that question for themselves, but for me, the answer is: I’m only saving those things long enough so that I can use them whenever they let me spend time with my family.

Which is why you’ll find me putting my hand up when the server asks, “Does anybody need the machine?”

And by the time my son graduates, I won’t give it a second thought.


The honest talk