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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: Think of it as practice for when he’s grown up and gone

Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

It’s graduation time around here, and in the Ditto household, that can mean only one thing: one more teenager is desperately trying to pull away, and Logan and I are desperately trying to hold on for dear life.

Our two oldest children, Lucy and George, are only 18 months apart. This small age gap was not exactly planned; George is well aware that his early arrival was the happiest of accidents. Their closeness in age meant two things: 1) they were destined to annoy and adore each other forever, and 2) they would always be just one year apart in school.

As they were growing up, it never crossed my mind what would happen when they each turned 18 and were ready to graduate from high school. In fact, it wasn’t until last year, when I endured the painful separation of Lucy leaving for college, that it really hit me, that in just one more year I would be saying goodbye to George, too. Ouch.

George’s upcoming graduation is made even a little more bittersweet by the fact that just a few months later, he’ll be leaving to serve a two-year church mission in South America. Once he leaves, we won’t see him – besides during weekly FaceTime calls – until September of 2025. My mother heart is both brimming with gratitude and breaking, all at the same time.

As George has been feeling all of the senior-itis that an 18-year-old boy can feel, Logan and I have been trying to rein him in and soak up as much time with him as we can. He’s a pretty good-natured kid in general, but this parental attention is sometimes a little irritating to him, especially when we fabricate irrational reasons for wanting him to be home, like sleeping, eating, and spending time with his family. The nerve!

It all came to a head the other day when Logan and I were discussing with George the state championship track meet in Tacoma in which he had qualified to participate. Yes, this boy who broke his collarbone just a little over two months ago has since healed and become an exceptionally good javelin thrower. Those of us over 40 are scraping our jaws off the floor at the thought of such healing ability; I’m still nursing tennis elbow I got from constantly holding a fussy baby 10 years ago. But I digress.

When Logan and I received the team’s travel itinerary, we were shocked to discover that they would be missing three days of school and be gone for a total of four. To put it in perspective, George’s javelin events usually take about one to two hours maximum.

“Four days?” Logan exclaimed. “Do you have to be there the whole time? Can we bring you over to Tacoma just for the day you’re competing?”

This was not George’s first run-in with his difficult parents, and he exploded in righteous teenager indignation – as much as he can explode, anyway. In reality, he kind of raised his voice a little bit and got slightly agitated.

“No, I can’t come late. It’s a team thing, and I’m supposed to be there the whole time,” he said.

“Yeah, but four days for an hour or two of javelin throwing … that’s a lot of downtime for a bunch of high schoolers with not-yet-fully-developed brains,” I added.

He did NOT like that. “You guys are so controlling,” he said, exasperated. “I’m the most locked-down kid in my school. I’ve never done anything actually really bad, but you act like I’m constantly on the verge of doing something stupid.”

“Going snowboarding and breaking your collarbone two days before a heli boarding trip was pretty stupid,” Logan said helpfully. “Does that count?”

George conceded the point but didn’t back down. He was gung-ho to do four days at the state competition, and we were not. We talked for several more minutes, sometimes in good humor, and sometimes with major Oscar-the-Grouch vibes.

In the end, Logan and I swung over to the supportive, trusting side of parenting and decided to let him go for the full four days – charter bus, hanging out in the hotel, and all. It’s not something that’s easy for us to do, especially me, the O.G. sentimental mom with an overactive worrying streak. But I’m trying, because you know how the saying goes: If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours.

If it throws a javelin at you, it never was.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at