Driving up the icy road, I vacillate between speed and caution. Once again, I am late to pick up my 12-year-old daughter. I pull into the parking lot of the small community market where she is waiting for me. “Mom, I have to be at the school at 4:45!” she complains. I glance at the clock on my dashboard and snap back,“It’s 4:00. We have 45 minutes.” Tonight is the Celebration of Learning at her school. It is show-and-tell on steroids. Every student in the school, at different stations, displaying and presenting their work...all at the same time. It’s a glorious, yet overstimulating experience.
She jumps in the car and we hastily embark on the 7-minute journey home.
“Do you want to use my curling iron? Are you planning on doing something special with your hair?” I ask.
She replies, “I might just put it in a ponytail. Maybe I’ll shave it off.” I’m not really listening. I am going through my mental list of what needs to be done in the next few minutes. Feed the dog, call the guy about the couch, return my client’s call, send an email, figure out something for dinner...
“Nice,” I say with my usual sarcastic flair.
We get home and I call the guy about the couch. While on the phone, I head upstairs to the bathroom to plug in my curling iron. After all, I am the queen of multi-tasking. I hear my daughter in there. She is probably curling her hair. I push open the bathroom door. What greets me is a bit shocking.
“Hi Mom!,” she says with an uncomfortable smile. In one hand, she holds her long, blond hair. In the other, a crappy pair of dull household scissors. Half of her hair adorns the bathroom floor. I wince and leave the bathroom. I am still mid-conversation on the phone and I cannot watch this scene go down. This is so out of character for my daughter - the rule-follower, the girl who insists on getting 10 hours of sleep each night, the girl who hates to be late, the girl who always gets her homework done without prompting. What?!
I wrap up my phone call and head back upstairs. I have a few questions. By the time I enter the bathroom, most of her hair is gone and she is trimming up the disheveled new pixie look that she is now sporting. Even with the hack job, she looks adorable. However, she is starting to panic because the Celebration of Learning is about to start and, remember, she does not like to be late.
Her older brother steps in to help out. He is reveling in this moment - thrilled with her impulsive demonstration and her boldness. It is actually quite endearing to watch them together. He, with clippers in hand and her, relying on his handiwork.
Finally she announces, “Let’s go!"
At the school, she quickly becomes the talk of the night. She stands in front of her science project with her sheer mess of a haircut and a beaming smile on her face. I suddenly realize that I have never been more proud.
I see her. And I hear her loud and clear. She has learned so much this year about science and entrepreneurship and history. But she has also learned how to break forth from the shell of conformity to be her own person.
There is no greater learning than that.