I get frustrated when I open a Huff Post parenting tidbit and find that it is, once again, targeted to parents of young children. There are so rarely essays, blogs, books dedicated to one’s life as the parent of a teen (or two or three.) You can read about how to get your child into college, but you can’t read about how to process the concurrent joy and grief that accompanies living with a high school senior for whom breathing the same air as you is painful.
So, in response to the latest HuffPo maudlin top ten list – “20 Things Every Parent Should Hear” – I offer you my thoughts on “15 Things To Remember on High School Graduation Day.”
This is for me and my son, almost 18, and graduating from high school on Monday.
1. 1. Your tickets. Apparently when you attend an enormous urban high school, tickets to graduation are at a premium. No tickets, no entry. Period.
2. 2. Your tissues. Because you can’t believe that this strapping, 6-foot-tall young man who is donning a cap and gown is the same little boy who called the color orange “orange juice” when he was three, or who curled up into a fetal position in the corner on the first day of pre-school, or who made his one outfield catch in baseball when you were chatting on the sidelines. He is about to stride across the stage and get his high school diploma. And you are going to cry. Which leads me to …
3. 3. Your sunglasses. Because you know that your crying is one of the most embarrassing things you can do to your son.
4. 4. That you are not alone. There are hundreds of other parents sitting in the same auditorium, who have just run the same 18-year relay that you have. Everyone’s journey has been a little different – different pit stops, different challenges, different triumphs. But we are all in the same boat, watching our children step up and out into the world.
5. 5. That he could not have made it here without you. Yes, he is his own man, and he has had to learn how to make his own mistakes, and climb his own mountains. But he needed you from the day he was born – to house and clothe and feed him, to cheer him on and to let him go.
6. 6. That every parent in that room feels a mixture of pride and relief.
7. 7. That whatever track your child is taking – mine happens to be going to college, but that wasn't always clear – he or she has the strength, perseverance and determination to succeed. And that home is and ought to be a place where our children will always feel safe to return if they need to.
8. 8. In a few short months, his bed will be made – permanently. And the drawers on his dresser will be closed for the first time in years.
9. 9. College is a first adult experience, but also a bit of a way station before real life sets in. He needs to work hard (because he’s spending our hard-earned money) but he also needs some time to think and plan and dream about the future.
10 10. That our family dynamic is about to shift. He will come home, but it will be different. His sister and brother will occupy different space in the universe that is our home.
11 11. We are one step closer to being the parents of grown children. And that means time for us to think about what our next phase of life will hold. It’s an adventure for the taking.
12 12. But we shouldn’t lose focus on the present. Every moment we have with our kids is truly a gift, no matter how much drudgery is also involved. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to believe that, when you’re changing endless diapers, cooking endless meals, overseeing endless homework, driving to endless soccer games. And then, suddenly, it ends.
13 13. House rules about technology continue to shift and change at lightning speed. I can’t quite believe that I am about to have five phones on my cell plan, including one for a child living away from home. Plus data. Plus computers, iPads, and gadgets of all kinds. We’ve done our best setting the rules, but at some point around age 16, the ship sailed. And I’m ok with that.
14 14. Bed, Bath & Beyond apparently has outlets everywhere. And the secret is to save all your 20% off coupons, order everything he needs online or at your home store, and then pick it up when you get to campus. Less schlepping. The bevy of stuff you buy will somehow stay at school and you will never need to see it again.
15 15. When you drop him off at college, leave as quickly as possible – for his sake and yours.
And finally, it’s ok to allow your heart to break just a little. I know mine will.
photo by J.O.H.N. Walker via Flickr