It’s tough stuff, man, those seniors graduating and heading to college, but let’s think about those parents and guardians left behind.
I believe there are times when knowing your child is graduating and leaving home feels a bit like a death in the family. It shouldn’t, of course, not in this era of cell phones and instant messaging, and yet it still really does. Maddy Major, your graduating high school (early, I might add) feels deeply traumatic, like a death that’s been coming slowly for years and years. It’s the end of our complete family unit as it’s been for these 17 years, which was whole, intact, and a daily party of five.
Your car won’t be there anymore.
Your seat at the table will be empty. I’m not waiting up on a school night for anyone to come home from work at Nike. It’s an emptiness, a hole in the heart. My tears are there, because change is hard and perhaps inevitable. I’ve shed some tears, but not while you were standing around. It seems best to just put on my happy face and stare at graduation invitations sitting on the counter.
You leaving for college is simultaneously awful for me and the start of a new chapter for you, a brand new beginning, the birth of a new life after high school. My loss of your daily presence is sad for me but fantastic for you. Graduation is not saying goodbye, like when you lose a loved one, but it’s a chance to say see ya later, alligator.
You were never mine to keep; I’ve always known that, since the moment I first held you. God just loaned you to us for a short time, and then it’s out of our nest you fly to make your own independent life. My father had a saying about parenting which was, “Where’s the joy?” Man, parenting is tough, I mean absolutely mind-bogglingly hard at times. Thank you for helping me find the joy.
You’ve been joyful. Don’t lose that in the crazy stresses of adulthood.
Thanks for reminding me you can’t control other people. I couldn’t force you to make choices I would have made. Parenting is an often thankless job whose only reward is, wait for it, the joy of knowing your child is ready to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences. What a blast, eh? I rocked you mostly to sleep until you were about two years old, which ended when you jumped off my lap one night and ran around the room in the dark. Snuggling and rocking were no more. That’s the night when I truly realized children growing up stinks.
You have always had your own agenda. Follow it, my dear, but keep me updated so I can live vicariously.
I have no idea how I even ended up your mother, honestly. My long-term plans after high school included no husband and certainly no children. And yet plans change. I know I wasn’t always the greatest parent. I could have been more traditional. I could have been more flexible. I could have been more patient and understanding. I must have said things I shouldn’t have, though it obviously seemed right at the time.
Thanks for showing me how to be a better person. Thanks for making me try harder to set a good example as a parent and to not say the first thing I was thinking. Words are powerful; seeing myself reflected in your eyes has always encouraged me to watch what I say.
Thanks for reminding me to use my words for the best. I hope I mostly did.
Thank you for reminding me to get over it. You’ve been a great kid, so there’s no need to hang on to any anger as you leave. Life is too short for me to keep replaying over and over what you said that one day in 4th grade. If you remember anything ugly that I said, today’s the time to get over it. I promise I meant well in the grand scheme of things.
The joy of you growing up is I don’t have to tell you what to do anymore. Now we can sit in Starbucks and talk about people without me feeling guilty about setting a bad example. I don’t have to tell you to eat fruit or drink all the milk in your cereal bowl. I don’t have to tell you when to go to bed or remind you to study. (Seriously though, you better study, and I mean a lot.)
You do what you want now. And if you make a choice as a college-attending adult that I don’t like, since it’s not my life, I can get over it.
There is a great deal of joy in getting over it.
Thanks for making fun of me, for my benefit of course. I appreciate you pointing out when my clothes didn’t match, hair was sticking out, food on my shirt, lipstick askew, shoes didn’t match my pants, etc. It must be tough to have two teachers for parents, one that dressed like a nut once a week and the other who taught 1/5 of the entire school every year. I know your last name was hard for you at times, to be in a spotlight not of your choosing. We both survived. It was good for me to learn not to take myself so seriously from your view point; thank goodness my daughter has such an incredible sense of style to pass on to me!
Thanks for making me laugh at myself and really, for the laughs in general. Your sense of humor will serve you well in the future.
There’s joy in laughter.
My life would have been amazing with just your dad, but you were the first piece among three kid pieces and a couple dog pieces that were missing from our Major family puzzle. I wanted to go down to the baby store and pick out my first baby, because I was absolutely terrified to be pregnant, but then you arrived. There’s no baby store, and somehow you were mine, on loan for 17.5 years, and the time has come for you to fly off University of West Alabama.
Thanks for the years of memories. Take off, fly far, and make your own memories, as long as you remember not to disgrace the family name.
Where did the time go?
So I won’t say goodbye, my first child, my first sweet baby, since graduation is not forever. I’ll just say see ya later, ‘tater, like during spring break or this summer. Make good choices, because you room will be completely redecorated a week after you start college classes in colors you will surely detest. Same goes for your bathroom!
I love you, now and always.