Graduation: When Parenting Becomes Art Appreciation

By Bzdek, Vince | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), May 27, 2018 | Go to article overview

Graduation: When Parenting Becomes Art Appreciation


Bzdek, Vince, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


My daughter Zola, who graduated from high school over the weekend, once asked me a long time ago to watch an episode of a favorite show of hers on Netflix, "Dr. Who."

Dr. Who is a time-traveling adventurer/do-gooder whose ship looks a lot like a blue police box in London. In this particular episode, Dr. Who has joined Vincent Van Gogh in a battle against alien demons only the two of them can see. It's toward the end of Van Gogh's life, and the famous painter is in an asylum recovering from his severed ear and a nervous breakdown, having sold only one painting in his life, to his brother Theo.

After the demons are slain, our hero decides to take Van Gogh on a journey in his time machine to present-day Paris for a visit to the Musée D'Orsay. There, Van Gogh gets to see dozens and dozens of his paintings hanging majestically on the museum's walls. While there, Dr. Who maneuvers Van Gogh near a curator, who is explaining all the reasons Van Gogh, who died thinking he was an utter failure, is the greatest artist who ever lived.

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The look on Van Gogh's face is one of complete, soul-deep, redemptive joy.

If only we could show our own graduates, right now, a similar glimpse of how wonder-filled and glorious their futures will be. I'd give anything at this moment to take my daughter in Dr. Who's blue box to catch a glimpse of her future days - which I am utterly certain will be things of magnificence and splendor - so that she, too, can know that this will all be worth it in the long run, that she should follow her heart's deepest desire and everything will turn out just as it should. If only I could pass on my confidence in that future as a Whovian gift to her now, as she leaves high school, for a destiny unknown.

In this season of graduation, it's the parents I worry about more than the graduates. Some piece of our souls is leaving us forever these May weekends, and as proud as we are, the hole from that lost part will never really scar over.

We have built our lives around them, and what happens now, when the very reason for that superstructure is slipping away?

It's a weekend filled with self-questioning for me as a result. Will she ever come back home when she's away at college? Did I do enough? Too much? Did I get her into the right college? Did I spend enough time helping her with homework? Was I too hard on her? Too soft? Was I around enough? Did I lose my temper too often? Did I teach her enough about her heart and imagination, rather than just facts, facts, facts? Will she be safe? Will she have opportunities equal to men, equal to mine? Did I explain the smelly, dank recesses of teenage boys' minds to her adequately? Will the cold, hard, real world appreciate her as much as she deserves? Or will it break her the way it often does the gentlest and best of us?

It's a roller-coaster ride through every worry and regret and fear I've ever experienced as a parent.

But on the last day of high school, after sending her a video of Alice Cooper playing "School's Out," which happily punctuated my own high school graduation a million years ago, an emotion in this worry-storm hits me that I hadn't bargained on. …

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