Dear Graduating Senior-
For the past several years I have refrained from writing about you on this blog. It felt like your teenage years and stories were yours and yours alone. No longer could I spill my heart out for friends and strangers to read regarding your upbringing. Those stories are best kept to the weeds of tantrums and grade school shenanigans. However, this occasion is just too important for me to pass by without an open letter.
In just a few days you will take that momentous walk that so many before you have taken. It’s only a few steps across a stage. But in that short space you will pass through the door from child to almost grown. With the turn of a tassel and the snap of a photo, the door will click shut and lock behind you.
I suppose it’s impossible for a parent not to feel melancholy as graduation approaches and reminisce over the past. For me, images play in my mind like a silent movie of all the joys and sorrows we shared: the tantrums and tears over ignored homework. Your single-minded obsession over Thomas, then domino runs, then Legos, then marble runs, then Mindcraft. Reading Harry Potter in bed together at night. Playing a guessing game to try and find out why you were upset. Celebrating your creativity and enthusiasm to get friends involved in your grand plans.
During your early years there were so many trips to the park, the zoo, the museums, the playgrounds, the pool, Gymboree, the store. Back then the days available to go to the park felt infinite. There were one million and one pushes on the swing and about that many chicken nuggets. I knew our long days at home were limited but the end of just us was a future light years away.
Then suddenly your dad and I were walking you into the elementary school with a backpack that was almost as big as you. Those elementary years prepared us for the tears we would shed over homework and soon we were wondering how you could possibly be old enough to attend middle school. The eighth graders looked like grown adults compared to you and your friends. And then the first day of high school came and I was quite possibly in denial that we were sending you into a maze of classrooms to fend for yourself among kids smoking pot in the bathrooms, fender benders in the parking lot, and girls in shorts so short that they might as well be bikini bottoms.
Diaper changes in the back of the car and rushing home for nap time are now just a precious memory.
We have tried so hard to give you the tools that will serve you well when you are out from under our wing. Tools to know how to be independent, to make good decisions, to do what you love, to know how to order food at a restaurant that is more than just the aforementioned chicken nuggets. We tried to encourage you to embrace your creativity and often agonized over decisions regarding school.
Did we push too hard? Possibly. Or maybe we didn’t push hard enough. We may never know.
There is a whole life ahead of you that we have tried to prepare you for. Goals and careers will ebb and change. Friends and loves will come and go and come again. You will learn and discover things that we have yet to imagine. Through it all we will be here. Our role as parents may change as you change. We will evolve from rule makers and enforcers, to cheerleaders and observers. Whether we are advisors or sounding boards, or just annoying old people; we love you more deeply than you can ever know.
I don’t know what dreams and heartaches are ahead once you walk off that stage. What I do know is that the dream I had for you from day one still holds to this day; compassion. Be kind to others, be kind to yourself and the world will be a better place for it.