You blinked and now it is here. How on earth did this happen? Where did the years go?
Yes….it is that time of the year…graduation time. Now as a mom who has been through this several times I thought I would let you know something. It will be alright! Really!
I may not be an expert, but I have done this once or twice or even EIGHT times (and at least two more to go!) So I thought I would hold your hand, hand you a tissue and walk you through a few things.
I was there, when our first child graduated high school and we left her at college…all alone (I can still remember the feeling as we drove out of the parking lot!) I cried my eyes out, we all did. How could she be old enough to be off on her own? What if she gets sick? Would she make good choices and do well at school? Would she be overwhelmed? How would our tight knit family do with a member missing?
A million thoughts, questions, concerns and insecurities rattled around in my head. Unease….even panic welled up at random moments.
We soon discovered that she not only survived but thrived in college. She blossomed into an adult with her own thoughts and opinions and she discovered many new facets of her adult self. We also survived. We realized that we saw her often enough and she did call, text or facebook regularly. We also discovered that we liked having an adult child. Getting to know this side of her was exciting and fascinating. We enjoyed hearing about all she was learning and experiencing.
When our next two children graduated and headed off to college…well we cried, but not as hard or as long. We now knew what was ahead and that the secret is to look forward with excitement and hope not behind with sadness or loss. This change really IS good. Getting to know these brand spanking new adults and see them try out their new wings was a blessing. If you did a semi-decent job raising them, they will bloom where they are planted. They will (generally) make good decisions and do well. They will keep in touch. They will involve you. So be present…when you get a phone call, ask questions, listen, pay attention.
Now the trick was when our youngest child graduated high school last year (as Salutatorian no less)…..the last one to leave the nest. That means we will have (between college breaks anyway) an empty nest. Wow.
We have had at least one child at home full time for the last 26 years. Talk about a major change! It is another new chapter, another new season. Although it was a hard, and there were tears, I am so looking forward to seeing my ‘baby’ grow into an amazing man in his own right. I plan on taking it all in.
The Parent’s Graduation List
So here are a few bits of advice from a veteran Mom of four…take them or leave them as you see fit.
- I had read this and many, many teachers, professors and veteran parents have said it…and now I believe it is true…when you drop them off RESIST the urge to visit or have them come home for the first month or so. Experts say that the more freshman students see their parents/family when they first get to college, the harder time they have adjusting and the more homesick they become.
- You will miss the ordinariness of everyday interactions and that is normal. It will be hard and very strange at first. It will not be very long before you are adjusted to your ‘new normal’.
- Don’t ask them if they are homesick. With so much excitement and activity they may not be. The power of suggestion can definitely change that!
- There WILL be a ‘crisis’ phone call. That A student gets their first failing grade, they have a cold or flu, a professor was dreadfully unfair, some social catastrophe has occurred, or they are just plain overwhelmed. When the call comes, be understanding, listen, give advice if needed and then STEP BACK. Don’t jump in the car and race off to the rescue for these mundane mini freak outs. Part of growing up is handling the ups and downs of life. Express support, but give your children time to solve their own problems—it will ultimately benefit them. Colleges have all sorts of support at the student’s disposal. Of course if it is super serious, go. However most of the time the crying person on the other end of the phone needs to know that YOU believe in them and their ability to get through it.
- Expect Change. They may change majors, roommates, friends, dorms, or even schools etc. You may also see changes in their attitudes, ideas and beliefs. That is all normal. Part of this experience is figuring stuff out and making changes is part of that. You helped them develop character and now they are searching for their calling.
- When you do visit try and meet their friends. Offer to take them out to burgers or pizza. These are the people in their life…and friends do matter. These are the people your child is spending their time with. Take the time to get to know them.
- Encourage your child to get out of their rooms and join some clubs, attend some school activities, volunteer, or participate in whatever might interest them. Try new things. They need a healthy balance of school work and non-school work to be happy and to grow into their best self.
- Remind them to always remember their morals, their values and their integrity. Hold on to those. Remind them that they ALWAYS have a choice. Remember that the choices they make can and will be positive or negative and they determine that outcome. Remind them to be an adult includes taking responsibility for their choices and accepting and dealing with consequences.
- Be present! I said this before but it bears repeating. These moments are a blessing. Be involved, be engaged, ask questions, read about the new topics and ideas they bring home. Enjoy the fact that these young adults are so willing to share what they are thinking about the world.
So go, take lots of pictures (and tissues) and enjoy this special day, this wonderful achievement. Be excited for them…and for you.
Graduation time! I may not be an expert, but I have done this once or twice or even EIGHT times Click To Tweet
“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.” These words by poet Patrick Overton are a great way to describe our situation here today. All of us are taking a step into the unknown, into that new darkness. All of us are splitting up, and going our own way. Some of us are going to college, others into the military, or into the workforce, even the parents here today are taking a new step when they walk their child down this aisle to receive their diploma. Change, in and of itself, is always scary and difficult. Yet life is always changing. Every day is different from the one before. Every day is a new unknown.
Some in here will take that step into the unknown and find themselves on solid ground. For them, things won’t change very much at all. A few will take that step and soar like an eagle, adapting to the changes in their life with ease. Most of us however, will take that step, and not find solid ground awaiting us. We will have trouble flying at first: leaving home, the weight of college debt, boot camp, or real world bills, pulling us down. Some of us will struggle to learn. Some will find the many changes overwhelming. Some of us will feel that they may never fly.
Remember that you have, up until this point, consistently conquered each and every change that life has thrown your way. So don’t panic. If you feel as though your wings are not strong enough, then think outside the box. Maybe to fly you need to simply build yourself a plane. Find another path to take. There is always another way if you take the time to look for it. Each choice you make and path you take has its own risks but it also has its own rewards. Denzel Washington once said, “Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. FALL FORWARD. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.” Just because you don’t fly easily doesn’t make you’re a failure. It makes you wiser. You’ve had to learn a different way to succeed. I believe everyone sitting here today will succeed in their own way, at their own time. Every single one of us will fly, but no two of us will do so in the same exact way.
I know almost everyone here is worrying about the unknown future that awaits them. Will I like my roommate, will I like my classes, will I succeed? There are a limitless number of worries for everyone sitting here. However you will never know what will happen if you don’t take that step into the unknown darkness. Esmeralda Santiago is right in saying: “How can you know what you are capable of if you don’t embrace the unknown?”
How can you know? Everyone is scared to go off on their own, to feel alone. However you are never truly alone. You have your family, friends, and loved ones. You aren’t the first to take these steps, and you certainly won’t be the last. Although everyone has different experiences every day, those who have taken similar steps as you will be able to help. This year I was the lead of the Drama club play. I had never had to say more than 20 lines on stage in front of an audience. This year I had close to 200 lines! It was one of the most nerve-racking things I think I had ever done at that point in my life. However that doesn’t compare to my sister. In college she went to Italy for the summer. No one in our entire family had traveled so far, let alone by themselves. Not only that, but she is just returning from living for two years in Arizona. Again she left, on her own, to an unknown place with unknown people. She didn’t have a place to live, she didn’t know the area, and she didn’t know any one there. She had so many unknowns, so much darkness, and no one’s foot steps to follow, but she knew we were there for her, supporting her choices every step of the way. She is a great example of diving into the darkness and coming out on top. She not only survived the unknown, she thrived.
When you feel overwhelmed and afraid by what is happening in your life, take a moment to reflect on all of the examples of strength and courage the people in your life have shown you. Think about how many challenges and ‘unknowns’ your parents face every day. Yet they endure. They face each new day bravely…and usually with a smile. My parents and my older siblings have an amazing way of getting through all of the challenges they face with love and laughter. What better example could I have? You too have footsteps to follow and people who will cheer you on and support your choices. Today, maybe we should take a minute to thank them for all that they do and for helping us get this far.
Let me leave you with something I’ve learned from my parents, brothers, and sister: be brave. Go out and do new things because every step you take will bring you a different experience. You might as well take as many as you can, and learn from each one. There are no wrong steps to take as long as you learn and grow with each one. Remember that you will never have to take a single step alone. You will always have family, friends, and loved ones to help you when you need them. So try to spread your wings and fly because they will be the wind under your wings. I’d like to end with a quote from Mother Teresa. Something I want everyone here to think about: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Thank you.