Permission Slips


Last week I had a surreal experience. I filled out and signed the first permission slip for my daughter—one of what will probably be many. I find it amazing that anybody is asking my permission to do anything, even that I am old enough to be signing permission slips.

It seems like just yesterday that I was taking home permission slips to my mother for her coveted signature. Permission for a field trip, permission for a band trip, permission to travel with the tennis team, permission to travel and participate in literary competition, permission to take a private pilot checkride, permission to get a driver’s license. I remember bringing home progress reports and report cards for my parents to sign.

But, it wasn’t just yesterday that I was bringing these things home to my parents, and a lot has happened between then and now. I have lived own my own in three states, more than 1,000 miles from my family. I have edited an internationally distributed trade magazine. I have taught and mentored college students; I have fallen in love and entered into marriage. I have experienced grief deeply.

Yet, until last week, I did not feel any more responsible than I did when I was bringing home my own permission slips to sign. However, holding that first permission slip for my daughter drove home, in a new way, the fact that I am a parent, and as a consequence of that fact, I am required to be more responsible now than I was before.

As a college professor and advisor, I cared deeply about my students, and I didn’t like to see them make bad decisions, but I wasn’t responsible for their lives. I was only responsible for doing my job to the best of my ability. As a parent, I am responsible for my daughter’s life. And, that is a huge responsibility.

Every decision that my husband and I make now includes forethought about how it will affect our daughter—simple decisions like whether or not to eat out at night to far more complex things like investing and spending wisely to make sure that she has money for college.

A friend and I were talking the other day about how our perspectives on things have changed as we have grown up. “Becoming a parent really changes your perspective on a lot of things” he said. “And, it should.”

So what did I give my daughter permission to do? Well, she rode in a vehicle—a bus—without her mom or dad for the first time in her life, and she went on a field trip with her class to a farm.

“Where did you go on the field trip today?”

“Pigs!”

“You saw pigs? What did they say?”

“Oink.”

“What other animals did you see?”

“Rabbits.”

“What did the rabbits do?”

“Wiggled nose.” My daughter wiggled the tip of her own nose back and forth with her index finger.

Okay, it’s not like I gave her permission for a day along the Champs Élysées with my Visa card in her pocket, but I did give her permission to experience the world in a new way. That, in part, is what parenting is about, helping our children experience the world in ways that allow them to grow and become strong individuals of integrity and dignity. And, that she has my permission to do.

© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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