The Best of Bittersweet: High School Graduation


When my first child, my son Justice, was just a toddler I read an article in a parenting magazine that has stayed with me for eighteen years. I wish I had kept it, so I could share it verbatim now, but things like magazine pages are not something a person who regularly misplaces keys and glasses can keep up with.   I do remember, however, that the sentence that really jumped out at me was a lot like this:

Our most important job as parents is also the one that hurts the most: raising our children to be independent enough to leave us one day.

High School Graduation represents the best of bittersweet for parents who have raised their children with philosophies similar to the one above.  When they walk across the stage to accept their diplomas, our children have reached a lifelong goal. It is time for celebration!

It is also time to realize, if we haven’t already, that our children are going to keep on walking. That they will make important decisions that we don’t 2014-05-31 12.16.02agree with, but have to live with. They will make decisions that alter the course of their lives without involving us at all. They will be independent adults fully able to function in society without us. Graduation symbolizes this leap to adulthood with much more poignancy than an eighteenth birthday. So though it is also a time for celebration, it is also (for most of us) a time for tears. But why? This is what we wanted, isn’t it? Yes. And no.

What got me at my son’s graduation last weekend was when the choir sang The Scientist by Coldplay. The chorus could not have been more fitting for a group of students who have grown very close, or for the parents sitting out in the audience.

Nobody said it was easy

It’s such a shame for us to part

Nobody said it was easy

No one ever said it would be this hard

Oh, take me back to the start


The graduate and his sister.

The graduate and his sister.


I confess that my tears flowed in time with the music. I want to go back to the start! To hold my crying babies again, to a time where blowing bubbles and unwrapping presents was exciting, to playing with matchbox cars and pulling wagons. It is hard to believe that all of those tiny delightful experiences we had together amount to this wonderful horrible thing… independence.

We are so proud of our son. He has faced many challenges and overcome. And even as he makes decisions we don’t agree with, we know he’s a wonderful person.

My son just graduated from high school. HOORAY!

Somebody hand me a tissue.


13 comments on “The Best of Bittersweet: High School Graduation

  1. orthodoxmom3 says:

    Congratulations! I know the feeling all too well!

  2. Mary Zisk says:

    Congratulations and let the tears flow. My daughter’s graduation was much more moving than I expected. We need to let them find their ways in the world, but we’ll always be Mom.

  3. Nancy says:

    We’re proud of him too. And of his parents.

  4. Sandi says:

    When they played that song, I shed a “few” tears, and when 2 of the choir members started to cry, it was total waterworks! Your son is such a great young man, and I enjoy every conversation we have. My son said today to someone “Graduation is much more important to my parents than me.” Yes, we see it as a major milestone 🙂

  5. My baby graduates next Monday. This song captures it so completely for me: The Hardest Part of Love

  6. Congrats! Its a bitter sweet time of life!

  7. hmmmmm says:

    Congrats! I have another 8 years but know they will feel more like weeks.
    Do you know the picture book THE SEA SERPENT AND ME, by Daschka Slater? It has become a touchstone book in our house, around all these bittersweet moments of growth and separation and forging independence…. for both adults and kids.

  8. Congrats to your son. I’ll be wearing your shoes in 8 years, and I don’t feel like putting them on at all.

  9. Lois says:

    What a wonderful time! As hard as it is, I say let them be grown! Let them fly away so they can soar! I remember when we were on the cusp of independence and all the hope and energy we had. It turned out pretty great, eh? Congrats to Justice! He will do marvelous things. *passes virtual tissues*

  10. kamikinard says:

    Thank you all for the well-wishes you sent me and my son! It has been a very full week, so I am just getting back to you, but I read every comment and appreciated them all.

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