Jun 05

Graduation Day: Nobody Warned Me

Today is my children’s graduation day. Yes – both of my wee babes will wear caps and gowns and will graduate tonight. The how and why of how two kids born a year apart now graduate on the same day can be subject of another post or a private conversation for those who want to know. The bottom line is that they…both…graduate…tonight…

My heart is full for them. Tonight, they will speak as the welcome speakers – together – at the ceremony. This summer, they will engage in jobs and internships that will prepare them in ways yet to be known. In the fall, they will both attend Baylor University – far from home, far from me, but full of opportunity. Their paths are in front of them, guided by God as they ask Him to guide. And I could not be happier about who they are today.

But my heart is breaking for me.

Some parents do not seem to have the same problems that I am having, but there are many of us who are. This is our first go around with this crazy graduation thing, and we are lost. We like our kids, and we have raised them to be people with whom we would like to spend more time than with some adults we know. We are thrilled for them – and even at times can’t wait for them to be out of the house because of the inevitable power struggles that happen at this time – but we really just want to swaddle them up in those receiving blankets from the hospital and place them back in the bassinets next to our beds.

And I am upset that nobody warned me of this whole crazy thing when I was in health class learning where babies come from.

I wrote that exact sentiment earlier this year to a friend as I shared with her that the boy now has a girlfriend and that I was getting to know his girlfriend’s mom. While I like the boy’s girlfriend and think that being friends with her mom is brilliant (in fact, asked her to be my chaperone buddy tonight at the all night party after graduation – and she said, “yes!”), I had no idea that it would happen some day. And I think that, more than the biology of how to make the babies happen, someone should warn you that some day you will find yourself in this state of jumbled feelings that makes it harder to think clearly about important things…like what to have for supper and what kind of ice cream is your favorite.

I don’t know! Can’t you see that my kids are graduating tonight? Please…don’t ask me any hard questions!

In the end, I doubt that anyone’s warnings would have mattered, and what good would they have done really?

Preparing oneself for a future grief rarely works. In fact, grief by its very nature is not predictable. We cannot prepare ourselves entirely for hard times in the future because experience seems to be different for each of us. How you handle your kids graduating may be very different from the I handle my kids graduating, and that is just fine.

So, fellow parents, let us go into this graduation season with some reminders to help us get through it.

  1. We are all in this together. I mean this! We may not have relied on each other up to this point, but we should rely on each other now. Sharing our grief lightens the load…and sharing with others who experience the same process may help us out.
  2. It is alright to cry. If you cry at the ceremony, do not hide it…whether they are tears of joy or tears of grief, they need to be shed (ask the biology kids about how tear shedding is important for your health!).
  3. We must not compare our worlds to each others’ worlds. Our houses do not have to be perfect. Your graduation party food does not have to be better than your neighbor’s food. My hair does not have to be perfect. Comparing ourselves to others robs us of our present joy.
  4. We must live in the moment. I need to get someone else to take pictures at graduation so that I can just live in the moment of the ceremony. Rather than recording the great times, I want to live in them.
  5. We have done our best; now it is their turn to live their own lives. At our house, we have a saying, “God loves you, and Stacy has a PLAN for your life.” While this stems from the fact that I like to help others discover their passions and jobs that go with those passions, it might be true that I like to meddle in my kids’ lives. I need to step back, be available when they want help, and let them lead.

This is a standing stone in our lives as parents. As many if us are going through picture albums in preparation for parties or to create books, we are seeing other standing stones in our lives. This one may be bigger than some in the past, but it is certainly not the last. We are not giving up our parent hat, but that hat is changing. We have had to be flexible as our kids have grown, and that need will continue as they grow into young adults and beyond.

Parenting is never over, but this particular chapter in our lives as parents of these particular children is over. As we grieve that ending, let us remember (and remind each other as many who have gone down this path have reminded me this year), that our parenting will change and that there are beautiful times ahead in the coming years.

Happy Graduation to the Class of 2014…and their parents!

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