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High School Graduation: A Mom’s Rite of Passage

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My eldest daughter’s High School Graduation had befallen. Not sure how we got here, yes, seems like only yesterday… on the other hand I had the wrinkles to prove it wasn’t! Created not only by passage of time, but also probably gained by potty training failures, elementary school multiplication tables, middle school emotional swings, high school auto accidents and a revolving door of boyfriends.

We had to shop for a little white dress to go under the white graduation robe, couldn’t have a bright red dress showing through, now could we? Just one of the activities, plans and expenses as we prepared for the day we had all worked so very hard for. We had an entire list. Invitations had been sent, food planned for the after party, big plans for the future in chattering form by the seniors that entered and exited our doors. This was graduation from High School. She had just gone through the requisite 1st through 12th year, gotten the grades needed and was humming Pomp and Circumstance as she walked down the stairs of our home.

The high school years were ones that were created to prepare a parent for this rite of passage. The years every child pulls away a bit, finding their voice, creating their relationships and discovering their paths. It’s been little by little and you sometimes have joyed in that independence, you do want them to become self-sufficient. You have at other times cringed at exactly what independence looks like, especially when it’s coming down the stairs dressed like a scantily-clad pop star. That independence soon nipped in the bud.

But this is the weekend. It is the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. I am determined to enjoy this. Shopping at several stores, who knew white dresses were so hard to come by? Finally, four purchases later (because we kept buying the “maybe this could work”), we landed on something that actually did. So when this is all over I’ll have to hit the return counter for the other three, but I don’t have time for that today.

We head home to coordinate the out of town visitors along with the locals, who will all soon appear on my steps. I’ve got to juggle the family, the food, the housekeeping. My daughter heads out the door the moment we return; she has to see just one more friend because who knows when they will see each other again (even though you know it will be Tuesday, no one’s leaving town until August for heaven’s sake).

As I take a few breathing moments during the week to ponder this life transition, my daughter is constantly coming in the front door and then out again, slamming her car door for one more whatever-seems-to-need-to-be-done errand prior to graduation. She is also in the throws of producing the Senior Class Video, the one for the entire class to be shown at the festivities. Film was her dream then, and is her occupation now. The few glimpses I get of her are late night hours editing on her computer when she needs another music piece to throw into the mix. Fortunately she still values my opinion in this arena and I have the privilege to help and see her sweet, anxious, stressed face for those few minutes.

It is the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.

The weekend arrives full swing. There’s a Friday evening rehearsal, and my whirlwind daughter has called me after school to tell me she won’t be home before it. She and some friends are…….the rest of the sentence is a lot of noise. There are too many 18-year-old girls chattering at the same time. The truth is that it doesn’t matter where they go, they will all be on their own in a few short months anyway. If she hasn’t figured it out yet, I’m really in trouble this fall.

The morning of graduation hits; she has gotten so few hours of sleep between producing the senior video and her endless activities that she only awakens in time to grab clothes, put on makeup and head out the door once again. I am trying to get myself presentable, coordinate the family meet-up, and prepare for after graduation. Our passing in the kitchen, a 15-second encounter, is all we have.

My husband, younger daughter, mother and I find a prime seat in the auditorium with program in hand. Looking through the names, which should be easy because they are in alphabetical order but through blurry eyes it’s not, we find our daughter’s. Peering into the sea of caps and gowns, we look to find her. Her particular school made it a bit easier—the girls wore white, the boys black, so half the job was done for you.

There was a speaker, but I don’t remember who it was or what they said, I was mom-numb. There was music, we lived in Nashville and worked in the music business so it was probably good, there was a lot of talent to choose from. But I don’t remember that either. I was focused on my little girl, and yes I did realize she was no longer that.

They began the awarding of diplomas. As each student’s name was called it was accompanied by a brief and insightful description. When her turn came it was something like, Loren Brock, “Takes on too much, creative, always ready with a warm smile and a kind word.” They got her right.

I whooped and hollered, my husband lightly tapped my leg. We weren’t supposed to do that. My opinion—really, exactly who is the graduation police and what are they going to do about it? This is my girl’s day.

The event ended in gaggles of people where I gathered with friends and family. We got brief hugs from our daughter as she ran toward us, then back again to friends or friend’s families to converse. Then we left for the after party at our home.

Table spread, she hits the house chattering to all in attendance. There is food, laughter, viewing once again of the video she produced, inevitable conversations that are about her future. Then she runs out the door again to attend other graduation parties of friends she has shared the last four years with.

We spend a bit more time with friends and family until they peel off, then clean up from the crazy weekend that was 12 years in the making. I take my final cup of coffee to the screen porch, a bit exhausted, a bit morose, with a few tears in my eyes. I realize I miss my daughter. Not sure what I thought this weekend would be, but watching my girl’s back as she exited the door was probably not something I had given much consideration to. Although for the last two years it was a frequent occurrence. After all, she was that person who took on too much.

I lapsed a bit into feeling sorry for myself, not something I often do. After all, I had invested time, money, tears, laughter, and you name it into this child, surely I deserved more than passing in the night, so to speak. As I was nursing my emotions I heard a car door slam, then the front door do the same. Dropping everything on the floor of the living room, she grabbed leftovers from the kitchen and headed my way.

That little girl joins me on that screen porch to give me blow by blow of her exciting weekend. Who did what, who said what, all the drama and nuances of an exciting weekend. She was just hanging with her mom, filling in the blanks.

I hadn’t lost her; the investment I had made was not gone. We were just being mother and daughter in this new season. This was the beginning of a new stage of life, one that would be just as rich, just as rewarding as any that came before. This was graduation, not just hers but mine too. I was graduating from just mom to very soon adding the title of friend.


You’ll also like Empty Nest,  Equal Not Identical and What I Learned in High School.
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Darlene, President of The Grit and Grace Project, is crazy enough to jump in the deep end then realize she may not have a clue where she’s landed. She has spent her adult life juggling careers in the music business, been an author, a video producer, and also cared for her family ... some days drowning, other days believing she’s capable of synchronized swimming.

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