I sat through my oldest son's high school graduation last night and I had a lump in my throat the whole time. I fought the tears and almost won until the principal told the kids to turn around and wave to the people who love them the most. After a moment of scanning the hundreds of eager parents, he found me in the crowd, we locked eyes- he smiled and waved, I blew a kiss. Cue the tears and tissues.
Whether it's kindergarten, 8th grade, high school, or college; every graduation tugs on our heartstrings the same way. As teachers we sit through countless graduations. Our hearts fill with pride to think how far our students have come. Only we truly know the work that went into getting those little ones from not knowing any letters to actual readers. Every year it shocks me as much as it shocks them that they are actually ready for first grade. However, it's totally different when you are sitting in the audience straining to see your own child cross the stage.
So to all my teacher friends, I know it's about the kids, but please remember the parents. Today is a milestone, and as a parent we only have so many. Let them take the extra photo, be patient when they ask for just one more. Forgive the paparrazi like frenzy. This is as much their day as their children's.
Commencement means beginning. And it is a beginning, but honestly as a parent it feels like an ending. With each milestone our children go through, our grasp on them becomes lighter. They need us less and less. Our whole relationship starts out with them needing us completely to stay alive. I remember leaving the hospital with my first born thinking "How can the doctors and nurses let us leave with this tiny person? We have no idea what we are doing. How can this be safe?"
Somehow my husband and I were able to keep not only Michael alive but his brother Matthew and his sister Katherine. I should have had more faith in us. We did it, if we are to believe his college recommendations we raised a bright, independent leader, who is kind - basically a pretty good kid.
Michael is leaving in August, and I'm so proud.
I find myself giving Michael the same advice today as I gave him 13 years ago as he started kindergarten. Smile, make new friends, be kind, look out for those who look nervous, make good decisions, find friends who make you happy, try hard, follow your teachers directions, stay away from kids who cause trouble, remember I love you. I'll be here when you get home and I can't wait to hear all about it.