A week ago today, my baby girl graduated from high school.
A week ago today, I shed a tear or 2 because my baby girl graduated from high school.
Shouldn’t graduation be a joyous occasion? A moment for celebration and giving thanks for what you or your loved one has accomplished?
Last Saturday morning though, I stepped into my daughter’s room then immediately backed myself out because the sight of her in her graduation gown got to me. Then on our ride over to St Mary’s Cathedral where the graduation ceremony took place, I sat in the back of our mini-van, fighting the urge to cry. Sami had put on her graduation cap at this point and it felt like a message was sent to my brain that told me it was time to be all emo.
What is it about seeing your child in a graduation cap and gown that makes you want to curl up in a fetal position and have a good cry? Why does the sound of Pomp & Circumstance, even just the first few notes, get your stomach all twisted? Is it because graduation, especially high school graduation, represents the fact that your child is no longer a child? That he/she has made it through a critical part in their journey to adulthood? And soon they’re no longer going to need you the way they needed you before?
As emotional as last Saturday started for me, I was eventually able to pull myself together. Partly because everytime Sami looked at me her facial expression told me there was no reason to cry. I pressed on for the remainder of that day and countered every negative thought I had about what graduation meant with something positive.
For example, nothing gets me sadder than the thought of Sami flying the nest in the fall and attending college two states away. (Imagine the feeling of buying round-trip plane tickets for when your child moves in to her dorm and realizing that her ticket is actually one-way.) Instead of being sad about it, I should be happy that Sami has the opportunity to even go to college and remember that she’s going to have the time of her life there. I’ve told her time and again that her college years are going to be some of the best years of her life. Why be sad about that?
Then there’s the concern that our house is going to be so different without her in it. Well, of course the dynamic of the house will be different. One of the key members will be not be living in it anymore. But I still have a son and younger daughter who aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Another thing that worries me is not being physically close to Sami for the times when she needs me. I remember all the mornings I would get a text from Sami after I just dropped her off at school asking me to bring her something that she forgot. Or when she’d tell me at the eleventh hour that she needed to bring in 2 dozen cupcakes to her Civics class the next day. Even though these incidents drove me crazy, being there to rescue her felt good. With her being away from home, who’s going to be there to rescue her? Here’s the thing I have to remember though: me not being there for her in cases of emergency will teach her responsibility. This is not a bad thing. This is a good thing.
Then there’s the sudden feeling of dread that I didn’t prepare her enough for life away from home. Did I teach her enough about survival? What about good manners? And making good choices? Is she going to know what to do in emergency situations? And so on and so on and so on? We all know that I could rack my brain trying to find the answers to these questions but I’m never going to be satisfied. What I need to do instead is to remember that we put her on the right path. What she does is and always has been in her hands, not mine. There is nothing I can do about that. The only thing I could do is be there for her on the sidelines to help her course-correct if and when she needs me.
For all the bittersweet things that my daughter’s high school graduation represented I must counter with something to find comfort in. She may no longer be that child who held in high regard all the words that ever came out of my mouth but she has now grown into a beautiful young lady with her own beliefs and convictions. She’s shifting into the college phase of her life but she’s as ready as she ever will be for it. Most importantly, she might be moving out of the house but I’m not going anywhere, literally and figuratively. I’m always going to be here regardless of where her college journey takes her. I’m always going to be her mom. Nothing will ever take that away from me.
Not even a high school graduation that reduces me to tears.