You will survive. I will survive.
I am not writing this because I have wisdom to impart on parents of high school seniors or empty-nesters (my kids are still at home). I can’t tell you from experience that you will be ok after your kids move away. (You will, I imagine.) I am writing this because it’s May and graduations make me think about the day when my girls will leave me to go to college (or wherever else they might be going). I can imagine myself a year from now when Haley is graduating, clinging to her leg as she walks down the aisle to get her diploma, sobbing and begging her not to leave me. I don’t want to do that, and I know she doesn’t want me to either!
Todd and I went to several high school graduation parties today. At each one, I watched the mothers to see if they felt what I anticipate feeling on that day; sad. But none of them looked sad. I even asked a couple how they felt and if they were falling apart on the inside.
How could this be? I am a mess just thinking that Haley will be a senior next year!
The other day I realized that this Christmas will be the last one where Haley lives in my house. I cried.
But these parents were smiling, talking about what college their kid is going to, and joking about getting them out of the house.
I have heard more than one parent say that your kids prepare you for the day they leave. They are gone from home more and more as they get older. They fight your rules, often to the point of exasperation for both parent and child. Their opinions get stronger and their interests lead them to the next logical step in their lives: leaving you. They get jobs, go on college visits, and ask to go places further and further from home.
Graduation feels like such an ending for parents. We want to hold on, to go back to when they were 2, 5, or 12 and just freeze them in time. To cradle them one more time, hold their little toddler hand, or let them fall asleep on our shoulder. To watch them learn how to read or tie their shoes again, to feel the excitement of their first day of middle school. It seems like the good times are over and there will be nothing as wonderful or exciting to look forward to from here.
But that’s not true (I think). There is plenty to discover about our children after they leave (right?). I don’t know what is to come, but I know I need to prepare my heart and mind to be joyful and not sad when I have to say goodbye. Because after all, I probably really don’t want them living with me when they are 25.
So I wrote this letter to reminder to myself that I will survive when the time comes (soon!). You will survive too.
Dear Emily of the future, remember these things when you feel sad about graduation:
- This isn’t about you. Her graduation is about her future, her dreams, her goals. It’s not a time for you to mourn or feel guilty about all of the things you wish you had done or the time you wish you could get back. Don’t mourn the things that were, celebrate this accomplishment and what’s to come.
- Remember how excited you were to graduate and go to college? The endless possibilities of adulthood! You never for even a second thought “how will my parents feel when I go to college?” (Sorry parents). You never felt sad that you would be leaving home or your high school. You thought about not having a curfew, making new friends, and living on your own.
- You’re still her parent after she leaves. She will call. She will visit. Your house will still be her home. She will miss you; she will probably even miss her sisters. She will want your advice and the comfort of your voice, your hugs, and her room.
- Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just because it’s different…
- Facetime, email, the internet, Snapchat. You can call or text or send letters, pictures, or videos. You can see her pretty much any time you want (any time she will let you). Luckily all of this great (and not so great- I’m looking at you Snapchat) technology is available to keep us connected.
- She’s just moving out. There are so many worse things that could be happening! It is great that she graduated from high school. It is wonderful that she wants to go to college. It is appropriate for her to want to move out.
- You are not in control. Neither is she. Trust in God to take care of both of you through this!
Emily of the present
If you are a parent of a recent graduate or a seasoned empty-nester, I could use even more ideas on how to cope. Leave me advice in the comments!