Over the years, I’ve written a couple of columns about high school graduation including thoughts on “The Sunscreen Song”, by Baz Luhrman, a spoken word hit song from the ‘90s sharing tips to savor the moments for graduates, and a stark realization how fast time passes after my niece graduated in 2010.

These thoughts that first occurred at my niece’s graduation more than 10 years ago return now and pull even harder on my heartstrings as I near my own daughter’s graduation this May.

When Peyton was born in 1992, I didn’t have my own kids and wasn’t yet married. So in many ways, she felt like my baby too. When she and her brother Drew were little, I’d stop over to my sister’s house in south Fargo for something we called “Burgers and Fries Friday.” I’d bring McDonalds or Burger King for my sister and the kids before going to my job producing TV news in the afternoon and evening.

I spent a lot of time over at that house and cherished watching the kids grow up: Peyton’s love of all things leopard and Drew’s fascination with the Spice Girls. By 2000, I was married, and shortly after in 2002 and 2004 my own children were born. At Peyton’s graduation in 2010, my daughters were 8 and 6, so the high school years seemed so far away.

Tracy had a chance to learn about parenting watching her niece Peyton and nephew Drew grow up. Tracy Briggs/The Forum
Tracy had a chance to learn about parenting watching her niece Peyton and nephew Drew grow up. Tracy Briggs/The Forum

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But it took just a few glances at Peyton’s graduation poster board that day at her garage open house to understand just how fast the time would all go. I fought back tears when I looked at how little she once was and what a lovely young woman she had become. I swore to myself that day, that I would cherish every, single day of my daughters’ growing up years. All of the older parents at the open house advised me to do the same. Laura was in second grade, Jordan in Kindergarten.

I thought I had plenty of time.

Yeah, right. Well, here I am 10 years later. Laura is about to graduate and Jordan is a sophomore and in the blink of an eye, I’m the older parent advising all of you parents with little ones to savor the years. Did I manage to do it like I swore I would in 2010?

Pause for self-reflection.

I don’t know if I know the answer to that. I’d love to say during the past 10 years, I never became frustrated with the dirty dishes left in her room or driving her to and from her countless after school activities. I did. And I’d immediately get mad at myself because I wasn’t fully savoring her growing up years the way those wise 2010 parents did. I am so blessed to have these amazing girls in my life and I shouldn’t be irritated and crabby at them so often.

"Savoring the growing up years" at the American Girl store with my daughters Jordan (center) and Laura (right). Tracy Briggs/The Forum
"Savoring the growing up years" at the American Girl store with my daughters Jordan (center) and Laura (right). Tracy Briggs/The Forum

The fact is, I haven’t been the perfect mom. Who is? Maybe Carol Brady or June Cleaver? I lack the groovy shag hairdo and seldom wear pearls and high heels while vacuuming, so perhaps I wasn’t meant to live up to their ideal.

The problem is none of these parents in 2010, quantified just how much of the time I should be savoring the growing up years. If I had known that, perhaps I could have put together a Google spreadsheet with hourly goals to meet per day.

“No, Tracy, I know you’re tired and you just want to go to your bedroom, relax and watch ‘Downton Abbey’ but you are short 17 minutes of savoring quality time with your daughters. Go in their room and ask them to share their thoughts and dreams.”

If only it were that easy.

We have goals for other parts of our lives. How many Weight Watcher’s points I can have in a day, how many steps to record on my FitBit? But no one tells you just how much time you’re supposed to be “savoring” the growing up years and how much time you are allowed to be a trainwreck — juggling life and sometimes playing bad cop with them.

So you’re left to try and strive for perfection like Carol and June and when you fall way short, and you will, you beat yourself up. But I’ve come to learn that is a total waste of time.

I can look back at the last 10 years, and in fact, the past 18 years with Laura to see that motherhood was the toughest, most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Both of my girls have challenged me, humbled me, and made me realize the depth I can love another human being.

Moms and dads of 2020 graduates might always picture their 18 year olds as babies. Tracy Briggs/The Forum
Moms and dads of 2020 graduates might always picture their 18 year olds as babies. Tracy Briggs/The Forum

As Laura is about to set off into the world, I know she’s ready. Will I miss that smiling little face looking up from her pink snowsuit? Maybe. But as I look at her face with the same sweet grin (with the addition of lipstick) I know that little girl is still in there. She’s just older, wiser, and a lot more fun. And potty-trained. Did I mention potty-trained?

I can look back now through the high school musicals, the figure skating competitions, and the school concerts and know I did the best I could with the day I had. Somedays, the day was difficult. Work was challenging, the house was a mess, and I didn’t feel like being a grown-up, let alone a mom savoring every moment. Other days, I nearly rocked the pink velour track suit and strived to be like Amy Poehler’s cool mom in “Mean Girls.”

Laura is in the Moorhead High class of 2020, adjusting to a senior year in the middle of a pandemic. Photo: Alex Floersch
Laura is in the Moorhead High class of 2020, adjusting to a senior year in the middle of a pandemic. Photo: Alex Floersch

What is the old saying?: “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” I hope my daughters know I’m their biggest fan and I always will be.

Was it enough?

Do I have regrets?

Could I have been a better mom for the past 18 years?

I’m sure I could have been. But unlike Marty McFly I can’t take that DeLorean back in time and change anything. I have to trust that it was all enough. I can just look at my daughter and the awesome person she is right now and know — I was a part of that. I can’t be all bad.

And I hope you parents in 2030 will feel the same way.

See this story and more in the summer On the Minds of Moms magazine on stands this week in area grocery stores in Fargo-Moorhead, West Fargo and Grand Forks.