As a parent, I have had the joy and privilege of watching my two daughters reach numerous milestones over the years. First smile. First steps. First day of school. My oldest daughter was the trailblazer for each of these firsts, but make no mistake, her younger sister’s firsts were no less special. That said, by virtue of their twenty month age difference, my youngest daughter always has followed in her sister’s footsteps to some degree. Until today.
In Louisville, upon meeting someone new, the common greeting is not one you may expect. Closely on the heels of Nice to meet you or How are you, comes the customary question, Where did you go to school? If you live here, you will answer this question countless times, and you know that the school in question is referring to which of the high schools you attended. Yes, high school, not college.
Before you crack a joke that the reason this question refers to high school and not college is because we don’t pursue higher education, let me explain. I never really noticed how this particular question is so seamlessly woven into the fabric of local conversations until my ex-husband brought it to my attention. He moved here when he took a job right out of college, and he quickly noticed two things about his new home. The high school question and the fact that Louisville is, in his words, the biggest small town ever. The latter statement explains it all.
The reason for asking where you went to high school is that it serves a point of reference. When someone says their school’s name, you immediately can search your personal data bank to determine who you know that the person being questioned also knows. It is a way of making personal connections, and in some families, your high school is part of your family’s legacy. My family was no exception. Until today.
My two older sisters and I all attended the same all-girls Catholic high school, and my older daughter carried on the tradition. Surprisingly, I was ambivalent about her decision to attend the same school that I did. I had a great experience overall, but I wanted this to be her experience, not mine. When she made her decision, I felt like she had chosen the right school for her. That is what made me happy, not that she and I would have a high school in common.
When it came time for my younger daughter to choose her high school, everyone, myself included, thought that she would follow in the footsteps of her aunts, mom, and sister. So, I was a bit surprised when she asked me if she could shadow at two of the all-girls Catholic high schools, instead of blindly embracing family tradition. I was even more surprised, but not in a negative way, when she told me that she preferred the rival high school to my alma mater. Yet, she was undecided.
As she has spent the last year making her decision about where to spend the next four years of her young life, I have spent the last year fielding questions and hearing comments from friends and family alike. How could you let her make such a big decision herself? Why would you let her go to another school? That’s so inconvenient to have them at two different schools. Are you upset?
While she announced her decision to our immediate family about six weeks ago, today was the day of the high school placement exam, and with two No. 2 pencils and $10, she declared her choice. My youngest daughter is creating her own legacy by being the first person in our family to attend the rival high school. She no longer was following in anyone’s footsteps, as she took the first step down a new path, where she will leave her own mark.
This moment is about more than her decision about where to go to high school. As important as this decision is, it pales in comparison with the larger lesson. She could have followed a path prepared for her many years ago, when my oldest sister walked through the school’s doors for the first time. She could have decided to join her sister at the same school, after being separated these past two years. She could have kept our family tradition going. She didn’t, though, and I couldn’t be prouder of her or happier for her.
My daughter followed her heart and her intuition and chose a school that will meet her academic and social needs. She chose a school that provided the perfect fit for her, and she did not allow anyone else to influence her decision. She was thoughtful and mature during the decision-making process, and she is so excited about what the future holds. As a parent, I couldn’t ask for more.
This first may have been unexpected, but I love that she had this moment to be her own person and to blaze her own trail. The decision has been made, but this is only the beginning for not only my younger daughter, but for our family. And thanks to her lead, we are ready.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: Just One Thing Each Day