Oh the places you'll go...
May showers have brought June flowers and the spring is flying by and dumping us smack dab into the onset of summer. I personally am a fan. School is wrapping up, work schedules and camp schedules are being ironed out and the routine is switching from that of books and studies to tan lines, fattening bank accounts and getting in some offseason work. Super duper duper yay!
It’s also a time for growth, for moving on, for closing chapters and opening others. Caps and gowns and diplomas are the residing theme the beginning of June as kids and young adults shed their skin of youth and stick their big and little piggies into bigger ponds. Graduation time is upon us and is a sad, exciting, exhilarating, scary time. I don’t care whether it’s preschool or high school, our children are spreading their wings and shaking their tail feathers while parents are praying they remember their roots and stay grounded in their values.
In the Navy
Graduation by definition
According to my gal Merriam, graduation is the acceptance of an academic degree or diploma. It also states that it is an arrangement in degrees, levels or ranks. And if you think about it, whether we are talking about our littles headed into elementary or our high school seniors tackling the big bad world like a pro linebacker, one definition or the other hits the mark.
Levels of Graduation
As I said, there are different levels of graduation. Some are a move up the ranks and some are graduating with that piece of paper that says, “I did it!”. All have importance in our life, in the family dynamic and each changes the way in which families do business. Read on.
I’ve been through this three times and witnessed it on several other occasions and you just never get tired of watching it happen. Our littles march across the stage in caps and gowns, construction paper frog hats or a myriad of other preschool decorative accents and say see ya later - I’m off to save the world! The promise of learning and growing and oh the places we will go is right around the corner and it really is mom and dad’s first glimpse into life with a school aged child. And homework. And social dynamics. And sharing. And, most importantly, snack time!
I am a champion
This is a huge game changer for families and the way in which they do business. Gone are the days of morning or afternoon preschool, two or three days a week. For most families, it means jumping headfirst into the freedom pond of Monday thru Friday, five days a week, 8:30-3:30 schedules. This is a major transition for stay at home mommy’s and daddy’s that now are left with one less to care for during the day and their first glimpse of what it is like to begin to let go.
Elementary School Graduation
This is a wonderful time when all of our tweens say bye bye to elementary school and head out to being the middle of the pack in middle school. The first time of really switching classrooms at the sound of a bell, a mix of different kids and a time when socially, physically, emotionally everyone wants to blend in and be like everyone else. Hormones are raging, relationships are starting and ending faster than we can turn in papers and our not so littles are graduating from being told what to do to learning to do for themselves.
Oh and this is a super fun time for families…insert eye roll. I personally was not a fan of the middle school years as not only do you have to begin to cut that thread a little bit but this is when you start to find out which families have the same rules and values that you do, which families love and operate the same way. And which families do not. And the do not end of it - that is so not fun. Our tweenie birds are wanting more freedom, less responsibility as they graduate slowly into the final years before adulthood. And we, us parents, we are trying to find that balance between letting go a little more and still holding onto the little boy or girl inside. It’s agony, in my opinion.
Middle School Graduation
Our tweens are dropping the W and heading into their high school years! Can I get a whoop whoop! Eyes set on the prize of being one of the big kids, of high school football games, driving, lots of freedom and the eventual grand prize of becoming an adult. Our teens are having their final growth spurts, figuring out their inner circle and graduating to be the best version of themselves - or at least the popular version. It’s an exciting time, standing on the backs of giants and looking at the high school years ahead.
Oh and for mom and pops - it’s a bit of a reality check. As our teens have visions of Challengers and Camaro’s in their vision, 1:00 am curfews, a revolving door at home, us parents - well, we see OUR teen years. And all the things that we don’t want them to do. We look at affordable cars with high mileage, Fords and Chevy’s that have high safety ratings, start studying college ratings and thinking SAT prep. This is a scary time for parents as for the most part, our teens are whom they are. Much of our influence is no longer influential and we pray that they make it to graduation not just in one piece but with the knowledge to go on and be a contributing member of society.
High School Graduation
Caps and gowns, diplomas, awards - fabulous time right there, these high school graduations. Most of our babies are considered full fledged adults with drivers licenses and the right to vote. College and job decisions have been made, the anticipation of leaving in the fall and being on their own is heavy in the air. They did their job, they got through high school and now they are set to grab the world by the tail and go make it theirs. Yes, high school graduation is full of pomp and circumstance and bright futures.
It's only just begun
And this changes the family dynamic completely. Once your child graduates and then goes off on their own, they are never the same. They grow, they change, they develop ideas and habits and relationships that are indicative of where they are in their life - some of which will coincide with good old mom and dad, much that may not. This is the final snip of the cord as all the blood, sweat and tears that you have invested in your child - you shove them out of the nest and pray they fly. And that the mistakes they make, because they will make them, the mistakes are not life altering.
For most, this is the final step in taking charge of life and college graduation is when our children in their early 20’s walk across that stage to get their degree. The final stamp of approval for learning and studying and countless hours in the library, those degrees have been bought and paid for with cups of coffee, late nights and, for many, student loans that will follow our babies like Pigpen’s dirt cloud. Our adults have graduated into responsibility as many take that first step into careers with the promise of working their way up, paying bills, first apartments and relationships that start to take a more serious turn. An exciting time for our adult children as life truly begins anew.
Wide open spaces
This is where as parents we hopefully start to see the benefit of our investment in our children. Graduating college is not just a tremendous accomplishment to our children but also to those that guided them and raised them. I think it’s a time where for many parents that get back the ability to take a breath, to look in the mirror and say, “We did our job.” Our relationship changes more from that of mentor to hopefully one of companionship and friendship as we settle into lives of our own and allow them to start that next chapter as an adult.
Honoring and recognizing these graduations in our lives is important for a variety of reasons. Most of them don’t come without a significant amount of work, a certain amount of expected input in order to receive the expected output - graduation. It’s a way of recognizing growth physically, emotionally and mentally. And it’s the natural cycle of all life - we ‘graduate’ from one phase to another, close one chapter in order to start another. It’s one of the ways in which we teach and we learn that all things begin and all things end.
Ready, Set, Don't Go
And I have a few quick tips for those that are looking for ways in which to honor these graduations these forays into the next part of our lives. Sometimes it’s the gifts, the ways we recognize that don’t cost a dime that are the ones that end up meaning the most to the recipient.
I think in many ways the ‘fanfare’ of the day and it being a celebration of them graduating to Kindergarten is probably recognition enough but that doesn’t mean there can’t be small ways in which we make it special. This is a good time to get them their first set of books - beginner easy to read books that by this time the next year they will be flying through with ease. A new outfit for their first day of Kindergarten is another great idea. However you recognize a preschool graduation, it’s a time to instill the excitement for learning and the magic that will be happening in just a few short months as they board the bus and head off to fill their little noggins with knowledge.
I hope you dance
Well with hormones on the rise at this stage, it could be a great time for a small but personal recognition for your elementary student that is now headed into those fabulous tween years (yes, that is sooooo very meant to be sarcastic). There are a ton of books that can be given and beginner planners that look expensive but really aren’t. A day of shopping promised before school to take them to get ready to look like all their classmates. A card with a note about accountability and what that means and responsibility and what that means and how standing out from the crowd believe it or not is a GOOD thing. It’s a tough age and there are rougher years ahead but that still doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate the graduation.
Middle School Recognition
This really is when the party should be thrown - and I mean for the parents, not the student. Seriously, if you survive the middle school years, y’all deserve a new car or something fabulous like that because middle school is tough. A first watch (not an expensive one but one that starts teaching them the value of time), a newer phone, something along those lines could be selected. Maybe it’s the promise of paying for half of their drivers ed in a couple years, an incentive for them to start working. Whatever it is, however you recognize, it’s a cool scary time for you both and they will be forever changed in the upcoming four years.
Lean on me
High School Recognition
Endless options here. Most high schoolers would tell you cash is king and most will need it as they forge ahead to college. A new laptop, their car insurance paid for a year, gas cards, etc. all make for logical and usable gifts for those graduating high school. Books such as Oh The Places You’ll Go with a personal note inside are a great idea. Choose a book that holds special meaning to you, that made an impact in your life and write them a letter and place in the book for them. It may not hold a great deal of meaning immediately but there will come a time where they will come across it and it will (hopefully) be impactful.
I'll be there for you
Again, college graduates are primarily student loan poor. At least mine will be. The promise to cover a month or two of their loans, giving them some breathing room. Help with a down payment on a lease for their first new car, a security deposit for their first apartment, so on and so forth. For those college grads that are headed out to be on their own and have the responsibility of bills and LIFE - a little bit of help can go a long way and most are very appreciative.
Today my life begins
Graduations My World
I have experienced all of the above except for the college graduation. And, I’ll be honest, for most of them we didn’t do any sort of recognition. True story. There are times I look back and I wish that I would have had my eyes open to what was ahead of them and honored the closing of the chapter a little more but that’s the beauty of it - we simply don’t know the magnitude of what lies ahead until we are in the thick of things with them.
For my Lex’s graduation, she got her first tattoo in addition to a graduation party at the house. A little unconventional - yes. But it also signified the fact that she was 18, an adult, and didn’t need our permission to get one. She put a great deal of thought into it and it was something that I got to share with her. My brother gave her a certificate to the Jelly of the Month club and for the last year him and his wife have sent her a jar of jelly - was far and away my favorite gift. Her graduation from high school was honored beautifully because my house was filled with all of our family from Montana to New Hampshire and they all helped to celebrate not so much her graduating high school - that is expected of them - but more so the fact that she did it…she survived childhood, she gained knowledge, she set the bar high and she was welcomed into that glorious exclusive club of adulthood.
I officially have a high school senior and will be looking a year ahead at when he graduates June 8, 2019. As with all children, their journeys are different and this is no exception. I look forward to the next year with excitement, anxious to see what he can accomplish, what will he do with this final year of being a ‘child’. And a lump in my throat, swallowing my tears because it is the last time he will be my little boy…mine. And cutting that cord with my Lex was so hard - and this time around will be just as much so.
And all of these graduations have changed me tremendously. All of a sudden, I went from being a mom of three teenagers to being a mom of two adult children and a teen. So much of what I have identified myself by I have lost. But that is where my ‘graduation’ is - my moving up the ranks. As I let them go, praying they stay grounded in the lessons and the foundation we’ve given them, I have to find new direction. I let them go to reclaim myself - this new version of myself that graduated to new chapters of motherhood right alongside them. Chapters that I was ending and starting and never recognizing that I was doing so for myself. I’m a little scared to be quite honest. A teensy bit fraidy cat. But the new me, the me with adult children - she's in there. And I’m peeling away the layers and finding her, one graduation at a time.
Best day of my life
The graduations in our life are a rite of passage. You do the work, you put in the effort, you give yourself to a worthy cause - that cause being you. For some it’s a cake walk, for others it’s a sheer miracle they got to the end but no matter what - it is an accomplishment. A closing of a chapter and the start of a new one. Celebrate those graduations. Honor them and recognize them for the importance they hold - not just for the celebrant but for us as parents. You’ve worn the chains, you’ve shouldered the burden, you’ve loved, you’ve failed, you’ve done your job. As they go on and they move to these next chapters of their life, SO DO WE. So yes - celebrate the heck out of those milestones, those ever important graduations, the chapters that they end and begin. And celebrate the fact that you too are ending and beginning new chapters, that although the unknown lies ahead - the UNKNOWN lies ahead. Greet those days ahead with the excitement of your grads because the possibilities are endless, my peepers.
Congrats to all the graduates of 2018! Don’t wait for the moments to find you - it’s your time to go make them happen!