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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Dispatches from the Home Front Dispatches from the Home Front (June 16, 2004)

By Barbara Wood

On Friday, June 18, my eldest daughter, Caitlin, will graduate from Woodside High School. Yes, the Caitlin who I wrote my first column about when she was a precocious first-grader who demanded I explain why no girl had ever been president of the United States. Just last week she registered to vote in the next presidential election.

As Caitlin gets ready to walk across that stage and pick up her diploma, and to go off to college at the end of the summer, I am proud, excited, anxious, scared and dismayed.

I know she can take care of herself if only I can let her do it. But letting her do it scares me half to death.

Of course, this is not a new feeling. I can clearly remember when this child, before she could walk, learned to climb up on the furniture and then, to jump off. More than once, I ran, heart-pounding, to catch her just as she fell. And then I taught her how to climb down safely.

Caitlin learning to drive was just as frightening, and this time it wasn't only her own life at risk.

But isn't that what being a parent is all about -- trying to let our children take the risks they must take to grow, without letting them hurt themselves too badly in the process?

While there have been a few times over the years I've often wondered how I could live with Caitlin, I'm much more worried about how I'll live without her.

She hasn't been making this easy on us. Instead of being as obnoxious as teenagers can be, she seems to have turned into a model young adult. A few weeks ago she told me that the coming Friday was "Senior Sneak" day and most of her classmates were going to spend the day in San Francisco. "But do you think it would be OK for me to come and visit Auntie Marilyn with you?" she asked me.

I'm proud to say I didn't gasp or appear half as awestruck as I was. "Sure, sweetie, that would be great," I said. We had a wonderful time. I don't know about the kids who went to San Francisco, but the three of us sat in the window of our favorite Los Gatos restaurant and talked and laughed and mugged for photos and had a great time.

Caitlin has been spending lots of time with her younger sister, taking her shopping, going on walks with her and driving her places. I've caught them several times watching videos together, Caitlin with her head in Brenna's lap.

Caitlin has even been fairly civil to her 16-year-old brother, and last week volunteered to take the dog, who she usually pretends to detest, on a long walk.

I know she'll love San Diego State, which I suspect she chose as much for the weather as for the fact that it has the two subjects she wants to study -- graphic design and advertising.

I know Caitlin is bright and strong, creative and articulate, stubborn and self-sufficient. But I'm also glad my best friend from my college days lives in San Diego, has promised to have Caitlin over every Sunday for dinner, and has an 11-year-old daughter Caitlin can take shopping.

And I'm also sure that on Friday, I'll cry anyway.

Barbara Wood lives and works in Woodside in an 1889 farmhouse with three teenagers, husband and a bunch of animals. Her column runs the third week of the month.

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