When I was a teenager, my mom used to say, “I hope when you grow up that you have a daughter just like you.” My mom wasn’t saying this as a compliment. It was more of a threat. She wanted me to experience what I had put her through.
Then when I was 21 years old, I had a daughter of my own. From the very beginning, Kassandra and I have had a special connection. A closeness that I didn’t think mothers and daughters could have – at least not while the daughter still lives under the mother’s roof.
Apparently nobody else thought it was possible either because all the way through her childhood and early teen years, people would warn me, “Enjoy it while you can because, just wait, when she gets older, she will be trouble. She will hate you for awhile. All teenage girls do.” I would politely nod my head in agreement with people, but secretly I didn’t really think it would happen. However, there was a little piece of me that realistically knew that every mom probably thought that exact same thing right before their sweet daughter turned into a monster.
I waited for my mom’s curse to come to fruition and for the warnings of well-meaning people to come true. But I think it is safe to say, now that Kassandra is 17 years old, I dodged that bullet. I could not have ever dreamed of having a daughter as awesome as she is. She is bright, headstrong, independent, creative, hilarious, quirky, caring, pretty, and just pure amazingness. She is how I stay grounded in life.
My journey through life hasn’t always been easy. I have had obstacle after obstacle thrown in my way, but through it all, Kassandra has been my strength and motivation to find the right path on this journey through life. Always hoping that the path I choose will be the one that would lead to a better life for her. Now it is Kassandra’s turn to begin on a new path of her life journey.
On May 28, 2016 Kassandra graduated from Manor Hall International School. Yep. That’s right. My little girl is a high school graduate. It really does feel like time flies by in a blink of eye. Was it really all that long ago that she came home from kindergarten upset because the Spanish word her dad taught her for monkey (chango) was different from what her teacher told her to say (mono)? Wasn’t it just yesterday she was off to middle school where my big worries were her riding a school bus for the first time and if she would have a difficult time switching from a private school (taught in Spanish) to a public school (taught in English)? Has it already been four years of her attending school in Al Ain? Where did time go?
Her senior year was probably the most challenging of all her academic years. As I mentioned in a previous post, although Manor Hall is a really good school, it was going through a huge transition this past year. It made it extremely difficult for her to get transcripts, take the right classes, receive any education, get information about applying to universities, or get the support needed for the transition to university. However, at the end of the day, it all came together and now we can look back at the year as one more obstacle thrown in our way.
The graduation ceremony was at the Hilton. It was an interesting experience. Her graduating class was small. There were 22 students (7 girls / 15 boys) in the senior class. Although I would love to say that nationality doesn’t matter, the students seemed to classify themselves into three groups: the non-Arabs (western expats mostly from the US), the Arab-Arab students (Emiratis or students from other Gulf countries but raised in the UAE), or the non-Arab-Arabs (students who are Arab but may not know much Arabic or don’t act like the Arab-Arabs). This isn’t to say that the three groups wouldn’t mix, but mostly the non-Arabs stuck together or mixed with the non-Arab-Arabs. The Arab-Arabs would also mix with the non-Arab-Arabs, but you would rarely see the non-Arabs mixing with the Arab-Arabs. Just like any typical high school just with a different clique system, right? Same-same, just different.
At the graduation ceremony, most of the speeches were given in English (albeit with varying levels of English ability), with a smattering of Arabic here and there. The (male) students shook hands with the owner (Abu Khalil) and the owner’s son – the managing director (Khalil) as the students collected their diplomas. I would love to include a picture of Kassandra receiving her diploma, but since other students are in the picture, I hesitate to do that.
After the ceremony, dinner was served and then just like that, it was over. We said our goodbyes to Christine and Rick who had come to celebrate with us (which turned out to be the our last goodbyes to them before they left the UAE for good), and we got in the car. The whole drive home I kept thinking about how it still didn’t really feel real. Yes, I just saw my little girl get her diploma, but somehow it still didn’t feel real.
During the next week, while we prepared to go home for the summer, it hit me. It wasn’t that the graduation didn’t feel real, it was the fact that Kassandra won’t be coming back to the UAE with me that didn’t feel real. It was a week of thinking, oh this is the last time I am going to watch this TV show with her or this is the last time I am going to cook her this meal. A week of laughing at our dorky inside jokes but then immediately feeling a little sad. A week of helping her pack all of her belongings while constantly needing to resist the urge to unpack every suitcase and not let her leave. A week of feeling so immensely excited for her and yet feeling the need to sneak a hug every chance I could get.
I know everyone has a hard time as they send their child off to college, especially their first (or only) child. But, but, but…. she is going to be going to university 7,571 miles (12,097km) away from me! Now that we have been back in the States for a little while, and we have attended an orientation at her new university, I am starting to adjust to the idea a little bit more. That doesn’t mean this coming year is going to be easy for me – far from it, but I know it is going to be okay. More than anything I am proud of my daughter for being the kind of person that she is, a person that I admire. I am excited to see what this new chapter of her life brings her, and I will be on Skype and whatsapp whenever she needs me. All I can do is hope that this year flies by quickly. Oh plus…. I have convinced her that she wants to come to the UAE to visit for winter break.
Congratulations Kassandra! You have made your mom proud.