Mark Clevenger: Your Child

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Mark Clevenger’s daughter is off to college and everything has changed, except what matters.

You knew this was coming. You knew it when your child was 2 and she climbed into a wicker basket, asking you to push her around the kitchen floor. “Again,” she said, when you were exhausted.

She breezed through elementary, middle and high school and there you are, dropping her off at a university in New York. You help move her into a dorm and good Lord. Three girls crammed into a tiny space. “I can’t live like this,” she says.

You share a goodbye dinner at a sushi restaurant. You won’t eat the spicy tuna roll. You will stare at it. Later, you will watch your child walk away with a TJ Maxx bag, a plastic sunflower sticking out the top.

Your child will fly home for Christmas. She will talk about awesome bagels. She will say New York’s cool but she might transfer back to the Bay Area. Your heart will leap; don’t say a word.


Before your child returns to New York, she will get her wisdom teeth out. You will buy her mango smoothies, feeling powerful by helping her. Then, before she leaves, you will cry at a stoplight.

The night before your child goes back to New York, you will have a special dinner. It will be sad. You will admit to yourself that you didn’t see your child much while she was home. You saw her rush out to meet her boyfriend, heard her return at 2 a.m. But she was there.

You will know it doesn’t matter where she finishes her degree. It doesn’t matter if she has straight A’s.

You will think about the wicker basket, the plastic sunflower sticking out of the TJ Maxx bag, the sad sushi restaurant. You will know that what matters, the only thing that matters, is that she is your child.

With a Perspective, I’m Mark Clevenger.

Mark Clevenger is a college counselor in Menlo Park. His daughter Chloe is attending St. John’s University.