I cry at graduations whether I know anyone there or not.
Once I even got weepy at a high school function watching student athletes sign letters of intent.
I didn’t know anyone there either, but I had a toddler at home at the time, and one of the boys signing resembled what I think my son might look like when he grows up. Plus I caught the teary prideful eyes of the parents there.
I’m a big softie. And with all of the graduations happening, I’m getting all sentimental again.
My kids are young. I have one in elementary school, and one in diapers. I only have a small Pre-K graduation under my belt so far.
But I get it. I already get it. Graduation Day.
Especially high school.
How it is a pride and sorrow tug of war inside your chest the day you see them walk across the stage with a diploma.
All of the long days and sacrifice led up to this. The Greatest Reward. For them, and for you.
The pride of seeing the good qualities they got straight from you, and maybe a few sighs from seeing the other qualities they got straight from you.
How floating toys in a bubble bath are long gone, now replaced with picking out their own toiletries and kitchen furnishings.
How exciting and terrifying it is to release them into the world, hoping to God we have equipped them well enough for the true tests.
How we wished so many times in their younger years for them to just be older and self sufficient, and to not hear the word “Mom!” a hundred times a day…. and how we now hope they remember we’re there to lean on and hope they choose to call when they need help.
To know that you now have the all-clear to buy nice furniture, but to drag your feet on buying it because you can still see them jumping off the arms of that old couch.
Remembering all the little french fries mashed in the car seat, and long lost sippy cups. Toys strewn all over the floor from here to Christmas.
Remembering the squeals of Christmas morning, the Tooth Fairy, and holding their little hands up and down the steps.
Dinosaurs and dolls in random places. Barefoot summers and popsicles.
I’ve watched cousins and nieces and nephews and friends’ children grow up in a flash.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago they were in diapers. And now they are grown.
My husband and I joke at the toys all over the house right now and we just smile, and with a touch of sarcasm say, we are going to really miss this one day….
And we know we will.
And I know that caring for them is far from over on Graduation Day. That is likely when the real worry starts. When they aren’t right under our noses anymore. And you know you will miss them so much.
I remember being a high school graduate, moving on to real life.
I remember the night before I left for college. I was bright eyed and excited all summer, and couldn’t wait to get out of town and be my own boss. Until the night before I left.
It really hit me that I wouldn’t get to see my family every day. I cried pretty hard that night.
On moving day, I went to my little hometown school to see my younger brother and sister. I got them both out of class to say a quick goodbye. They went back to class in tears, and I left crying too. I remember hugging my sister and telling her to take care of mom.
I remember moving into my college dorm. How it was all fun and games until we were done moving all of my stuff.
We said a tearful goodbye, and my mom had a really tough ride home. I wasn’t there, but I knew.
And I understood. I knew she would go into my room after I was gone.
So at home before we left, I left a letter for her on my bed in my room. Thanking her for always being there and sticking it out with her rebellious child. And how I miraculously made it to college because of her.
I was glad to be out on my own, fearless and naive about so much. But I still remembered where my safety net was.
I remember calling my mom because I didn’t know anything about health insurance for that first job, or the first time I had to file taxes.
I remember thinking, is it really that necessary to have car insurance? Seems like such a waste of fun money. (That was an expensive lesson.)
What a mixed bag to watch your baby bird leave the nest and spread their wings. But it is time they need to grow on their own.
And we get to continually spot them in case they fall. And we get to pick them up.
And for the record, my favorite vacation spot in the whole wide world is my mother’s living room in my quiet little home town.
Graduation is a time full of hope and possibilities, and I will cry at every graduation from here until the end of time. And when it’s my guys’ turns to be up there, I will need to be peeled off the floor. But I will let them go see the world.
If you are a graduate, congratulations you did it!
And if you are a parent of a graduate, big hugs for you. You did it too.