The Best of Bittersweet: High School Graduation

Justice

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.