Getting In: Graduation is Tomorrow

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Graduation is tomorrow, and my heart is in my throat.  I am told by friends with older children that college graduation is much easier on parents than high school.  Goodbyes have already been said.  But we have not said goodbye, and as I sit here writing, I am working hard to keep it together – not cry and say “don’t go!”  Emily is so ready.  She needs to go.  But what it means for us, for me, is something that looks much less like a beginning, and more like an end, at least to this stage of our family’s life.

I know that, rain or shine, the girls will be beautiful in their dresses, carrying flowers, and marching to traditional tunes.  Speakers will extol the successes of their years together, with due focus on great academic, athletic, and artistic achievements.  Friendships will be mentioned, and honor will be paid to parents, extended families, teachers and friends who have supported, encouraged, and made possible everything that they have done.  We will celebrate, as a community, futures so bright.

But what about me?  Stevie Nicks and the Dixie Chicks say it best: “I’ve been afraid of changin’, ’cause I’ve built my life around you.  But time makes you bolder, children get older.  I’m getting older, too.”  For two decades, we have put Emily’s needs first, made what is important to her important to us.  We have sacrificed, happily, to make her journey smooth, rich, and good.  So now, as her days with us are numbered (literally, by a count-down on her closet door), how do we turn the dial, shift the focus?  These are confusing times, for all involved.

With all this young adulthood staring us in the face, we are challenged with the need for new guidelines.  What will summer curfew be?  Can she go to New York for the day with her boyfriend?  Does she have to let us know who is staying at her place for beach week?  Seriously?!  We are letting her GO to beach week!  I thought that was a generous concession.  But this is a time of great change, and the rules are not so clear.

As we strolled through the grocery store this afternoon picking up all of her favorite things for the family graduation luncheon, I asked her, “Are you ever going to come back?”  Thinking this was an easy one, a way for her to give me a metaphorical pat on the back as the sentimental mother lamenting her daughter’s departure, I was expecting her to say, “Of course!” And we’d both feel better.  Instead, she said, “That depends.  What will curfew be when I’m home from college?”

So there it is, folks.  At the end of the day, the horse trader in us all is revealed, and we all need to know what tomorrow brings for ourselves.  For me, tomorrow will bring moments of tremendous pride, joy, love, and the bittersweet taste of goodbyes to come.  For Emily, tomorrow marks the end of a wonderful high school career, where she learned things about herself she didn’t know she didn’t know.  I will comfort myself with the hope that as she grows, she will still need us.  And she will bask in the freedom that these next few months will bring.  Tomorrow, together, we will change.

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  1. I had tears in my eyes as I read your article, knowing this time is coming for me in the not too distant future. I hope you write a followup in a year or so, to let us know all the wonderful things you’ve done with your new-found freedom.

  2. Oh my! How beautifully written, and yet, just rip my heart out and stomp all over it! I’m SO NOT READY!!! I’m already a disaster over my ‘pulling away’ 16 year old son. His whole life I’ve made him be the big brother and all I want for him to do now is SLOW DOWN and STAY HOME for a minute already. Of course we think, we hope, we pray they are ready; they are mature enough; they are smart enough; to what? To keep themselves safe and happy, of course. God speed Emily on her journey and may she be all you have worked so hard for her to be and may you enjoy her journey too!

  3. Very well put! Congratulations from a dad who just went through it two weeks ago! It is tough, but it is time for them to spread their wings just as we did 7 years ago. (that’s my math and I am sticking to it)

  4. I wonder if our generation has done a disservice to our children by making helicopter parenting the norm and letting go the distained-upon exception. I hope that all of our graduating seniors learn to make prudent choices and save their best energy for their careers and family. We baby boomers need to enrich our own lives and allow our young women and men to grow up. Easier said than done…

  5. Due to graduation yesterday, I didn’t get to read this until today – and now, after reading this, the tears there was no time for yesterday are brimming in my eyes. I will miss my daughter…

  6. Thank you all for kind words… we got through Graduation with a polite measure of tears. No one stared or pointed, which I took as a good sign. And for a timely antidote to sentimentality, we are deep in the planning for tomorrow’s departure for beach week! Hoping all goes well!

  7. Well, are you more encouraged, or more concerned for her future as you (almost certainly) recall how you saw this same situation a long time ago and from the other side of the cap-n-gown? Were you eager to get away from home, or comforted by the firm knowledge that there would always be this safe haven to which you could return? You know the saying: “Home is where, when you have to go there they have to take you in.”
    One gets the sense that this youngster is secure in her personality and is just as secure in the love of her family. The rest is details. Okay, important details, but still. . . .

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