COMMENTARY: This mom has an important lesson to teach her daughter before high school graduation

My daughter, Maddy, will graduate from high school June 1. And while I know it in my head, my heart can hardly believe it.

It feels like I just dried my tears from dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten. Now I need a whole new pile of tissues for this.

Her dad and I are so proud. Our girl has worked hard and accomplished the big goals she set for herself all the way back in eighth grade.

But it’s not her GPA or class rank or ACT score that matters most to me.

What matters most is the young woman she has become. She’s hard working, determined and caring. She’s creative and strong, and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself.

Maddy might not realize I feel that way.

We have spent so much time talking about all those other things – the exams, the standardized tests and the scholarship applications – that I worry she might think those are the things I value the most.

“Parents sometimes fall into the trap of emphasizing achievement above all else,” Dr. Brian Kurtz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told me. “The child learns I can only be worthy of respect by others if I succeed in reaching some achievement, whatever that might be.”

Is that what I’ve done?

I hope not. But as I prepare to watch my first baby bird leave the nest, I’m not so sure.

I’ve always encouraged both our daughters to work hard and do their best, and I’ve told them that I’ll be proud as long as they’ve done that.

But I know they think I pressure them and sometimes push too hard.

I hope they understand it’s not because I want bragging rights or will only love them if they’re straight-A kids. That’s just not true.

Of course I want my girls to have successful, happy lives. But if I had to pick just one of those things, I would pick happy.

More than anything, I want them to be resilient, that critical quality that will help them bounce back from disappointment and even tragedy. That inner strength that will help them put things into perspective, whether it’s a bad grade or the death of a friend or loved one.

Kurtz told me “the healthiest families and the most resilient children come from an environment of unconditional love.”

Do my daughters understand that’s where they come from? I hope so.

I hope Maddy and our younger daughter, Katy, know deep down that their dad and I love them unconditionally – no matter what.

Young people are under so much pressure.

The heartbreaking case-in-point is Brogan Dulle – the University of Cincinnati student who was found dead early Tuesday morning.

There’s so much about the story of Brogan Dulle that we don’t know and might never know.

But this much is certain: That young man’s friends and family loved him. By all accounts, he was full of potential. Still, it appears Brogan Dulle took his own life.

His story makes my heart ache for his parents and everyone else who loved him.

And it’s made me all the more determined to tell my daughters over and over again what’s most important to me. I don’t mean to imply that Brogan Dulle’s parents didn’t. I don’t know the family at all.

I do know my own family, though. And I want to do a better job showing my girls the unconditional love that I feel.

I’ll know I’ve succeeded when they start complaining about that instead of the pressure.

For more stories by Lucy May, go to www.wcpo.com/may . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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