My son walks into my office and tosses a school permission slip onto my desk the way he has so many other times over the past 12 years of school, 13 if we count kindergarten. Before I can reach for it to see where he is off to this time, he walks back in and grabs it back. “I just realized,” he says with a smirk, “I’m 18 now and can sign this myself!” And just like that, my heart sinks into my stomach and tears start to sting my eyes.
I am not naïve; I knew this day was coming. I planned a special birthday party complete with a cake made from cash for the occasion. I have helped him pick out a tux for prom and attended all the “lasts” performances and events of his high school career. His graduation party has been in the works for months now, and yet, as actual graduation day looms ever so close, I can’t help but feel caught off guard by it. I am physically overwhelmed by the mixture of emotions I am feeling.
I feel confounded that so many years have gone by in my life as this boy’s mom and yet, I cannot account for every moment. When I look back over the past 18 years, parts seem fuzzy; most likely because I was sleep deprived for many of them. It really is like the old cliché, “The days are long, but the years go by quickly.” One day, he is a toddler learning to walk, and in the blink of an eye, he is walking across a stage and into the first chapter of his adult life.
I feel proud; not only of the many accomplishments my son has achieved, but also of myself. After all, without any training or advance experience, I somehow was able to keep this whole other human being alive for the past 18 years. I can’t even keep a fern alive for a month … this is huge, people!
I feel excited! This season of change is filled with promise and hope. I am excited to see all the “firsts” my son will experience. I am excited to watch him grow, become more independent, and mature into the awesome grownup I know he will be. It’s like having a caterpillar that you know one day will transform into a magnificent butterfly. I can’t wait to see him fly.
I feel fearful. For the past 18 years, my job was to protect him, to guide him, to walk with him until he was able to walk alone. When he walks across the stage in his cap and gown, he will do so ALONE, and that sudden realization scares the heck out of me. Not because I am fearful that my son is not ready – I KNOW HE IS! Rather, I’m not ready! As he goes off to find his own place in this great big world, in many ways, I will be, too.
As far as life events go, turning 18 and graduating are no doubt momentous for our kids. What I didn’t realize was how earth-shattering they are to us as parents, too. I now understand that the day my son graduates, so do I. My job of his mom will still go on – I will always worry about him and nag him about whether he has enough gas in his car, money in his wallet, or clean underwear on – just in case.
But, no longer will I be his personal taxi driver, school supply shopper, permission slip signer. Yes, graduation day will be an ending, but in so many more ways it will be the start … for us both!