“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once.”
— Celeste Ng
To the parents of graduates everywhere, I get it. This cannot be right. You have checked the calendar multiple times. You really thought this day would never come.
Seventeen, maybe 18 years ago, you were waiting. There was a date on the calendar. Or maybe a call to say you had been chosen. This was it. The waiting seemed endless.
Any day now, you thought. You were waiting to have a new baby in your arms. Now, you blinked, and it seems like you are still waiting. This time, you are waiting for that impossibly grown baby to go.
The endless “lasts and leaving” of a child’s senior year and what is, by default, their last season of childhood, can feel like the proverbial death by a thousand cuts.
Sometimes it seems like the endless array of milestones and graduation events seem tailor-made to remind you that your parenting journey has an expiration date.
Soon, they will be grown and gone. You can be proud but still, a bit morose. You parented so dutifully that you worked yourself right out of the job.
I am blessed with a dear friend who taught me early and reminds me often that “healthy birds fly.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a few tears when our children graduated high school one right after another a year apart.
A blink and a half later, they graduated college ON THE SAME DAY. Sometimes Team Seabolt takes togetherness too far. Mama’s heart is fragile. Let’s pace ourselves.
If you are facing that season, I am here to pat your hand, provide a virtual hug and assure you that letting go can bring happy tears too.
As I look back on those days of award ceremonies, “last” dances and last days, I can say with confidence that the “letting go” has come and gone, and we survived. Better yet, we thrived.
Throughout their high school years, my peers and I joked that for kindergarten and middle school orientation, we need to bring back “veteran parents” to give speeches like “Carpool Lane Survival Trips: Goodbye is not Forever,” and “Tuck and Roll for Dummies.”
I also feel there should be experienced parents who come to senior year events not to commend the students, but to educate their parents. These fine people deserve a pat on the back and reassurance too.
This orientation is about learning to live with the reality that we may not be forever the due North on our child’s compass, but we are still there to guide them — and delight in the journey along the way.
If you thought the first 18 years or so flew by, let me assure you, it’s warp speed from here on out. I feel like our children just graduated from high school last week. Of course, I am mistaken. Math never was my strong suit.
It’s been a few years, two full college degrees, 2/3 of law school, two internships, two engagements, one wedding, four exciting new careers, five new pets between them (my grandpups and grandcats, thank you very much), and one newly purchased home that I delight in visiting. These are the good old days indeed.
As the parent of fully actualized adult young persons, I am back with new intel. It gets better!
They have been busy making a difference, making a life and making memories. It’s been wild and chaotic and exhilarating — sometimes exhausting — and so much fun. So basically, it’s an awful lot like parenting during the early years but with the added bonus of not having to enforce their bedtimes or worry about their sugar intake.
As these healthy birds fly, they bring new experiences, new friends, and in some cases new families. For parents, hearing them share the absolute joy in their new horizons leaves little space to be sad.
I’m still recommending waterproof mascara, a not-so-stiff upper lip, and springing for those really good facial tissues — the ones with the lotion — for the big milestones. Those post-graduation tears are real.
However, I’m also here to assure you as an “experienced” parent with more than a few firsts — and lasts — under my belt: the “finish line” is a myth. The key is looking forward to the future.
Don’t get so caught up in the maudlin grip of “lasts and losses” that you forget to embrace the possibility of many blessings and joys to come. Healthy birds do fly. If you’re lucky and pay attention, your heart soars with them too.
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