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Byline: Kathleen Vallee Stein

MY son walked in the door at 10 p.m., home from his college class. Close to the end of the semester, he spoke confidently of his prospects of receiving a good grade.

I was in the living room at the moment and glanced at his high school senior picture, taken four years ago. I hadn't realized how much he had grown and matured in the last four years until I looked again at his senior picture, proudly displayed next to his older sister's.

I remembered the struggle to get him to wear a suit for the picture. Always independent, he couldn't understand why he had to dress like his fellow graduates. After a much heated discussion, he wore the suit; we compromised on the hair.

May and June are full of ceremonies and graduations, weddings, bar mitzvahs and confirmations. It is a season of transition. From Mother's Day to Father's Day to graduation, the Hallmark people are busy.

Perhaps there is no greater signpost for parents than the bittersweet senior picture. Often taken the summer before the fateful senior year, most young people's faces reveal the marks of modern adolescence; if not a pimple or two, perhaps a mouthful of braces.

I proudly display the senior pictures of my two grown children. My daughter, now 25 and living an artist's life in New York, innocently beams her fresh good looks from her senior picture. One month later, she was sporting a nose ring, a ghastly adornment that horrified her father and me.

We coped with the red hair, after all, she was an artist. But, the irrevocable puncture to her beautiful nose was more than we could stand. She was, however, 18 years old.

In that hot summer before my daughter's senior year, we disagreed over her final pose. I was paying for the pictures, but she was a young woman, capable of making her own decisions. I wanted the pose where her diamond necklace was in perfect position and her wonderful smile was simple and free.

She chose instead, a more cynical pose with the precious diamond slightly askew. Her eyes are not clear and free, but hold a tiny crinkle and sport a bit of cynicism. After all these years, I am glad she insisted on the pose that expressed her first step to becoming a woman.

I work in a small office, and it so happens that three of the 14 people I work with are pregnant. Being a mostly female staff, we fuss over the pregnant ones, while thanking God that we do not walk with swollen ankles in their shoes.

Those of us with grown children wish the new mother well. We quietly reminisce about that magical time in our lives when we held our precious children within us.

Parents who have crossed the straits of children's adolescence, silently give thanks that we are now past that painful time. We look at our children's senior picture and gaze with a mixture of love and regret. We have forgotten the fights, the screams, the misunderstandings, and most of the pain.

To all the proud parents who find themselves preparing for a child's graduation, I have some words of advice. Put your graduate's picture in a place of honor and thank God for the precious few years you held their hands. Forget the painful words you spoke in anger, and grow comfortable with the adult who will, hopefully, become your friend.
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Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 24, 1998

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