Dear Mom whose baby is a high school senior this year,
I know it was just yesterday you were changing diapers or wiping crumbs. Or tucking in at night. Or pushing the swing at the playground.
It feels like the years went too quickly, doesn't it? And now that little snot-nosed kid who you thought you had so much more time with is preparing to graduate.
I've been there myself — three times — and it doesn't get any easier, I'm afraid.
But I've learned some things, and I can share them with you.
It's not much, because I'm still in process just like you, but for what it's worth, let me encourage you.
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1) Don't let regrets keep you from enjoying NOW. I do know — oh how I know — that you feel like you didn't do enough, that you failed in so many ways. Try not to dwell on that, because there truly is not enough time left to do anything about it now, anyway.
Just cultivate a smile and feast your eyes on the amazing person that is your high school senior. There are SO MANY good things about that person, and you did influence some of that wonderfulness. Enjoy the person, cherish the moments, treasure the memories you are currently making.
2) That doesn't mean you can't still have an impact on this wants-to-be-autonomous-but-still-needs-mommy child. It's not too late to help them in preparing for college independence by encouraging more and more responsibility and self-reliance.
Give them the space they need to test their wings while they still have the safety of home. Show trust where you can and try not to hold the reins too tight. Easier said than done, I know…
3) HUGS are called for. Early and often, lol. Hug them when they wake up and show their face in the kitchen for breakfast, and hug them before they go into their room for the night. Hug them in the middle of an argument. Hug them “just because” throughout the day.
Hugs are the BEST medicine, for them and you. It is impossible to hug too often! They will remember this. They will call on it when they are lonely and tired and far from home.
4) Talk with them as often as possible. Or better yet, let them talk to you. About anything and everything. Avoid criticism or correction about what they say — just let them vent, or exclaim, or explain — and then you may nod and say “mm-hmmm.”
Give an opinion only when asked — as far as you are able, that is… :-) But be available, and willing, to listen. This sets the precedent for phone calls home later.
5) Expect senioritis. Because my experience is that they all get it, in one form or another. Usually the “why should I have to do this stupid school work” form, lol. Try not to nag; it may be time to let them experience some natural consequences of not getting things done on time. Better now than later… When in doubt of how to respond, see #3 and #4.
6) And yet, you are still the parent. There are still things that must be done. Like the ACT and SAT exams, and applications for college, and then the college tours. Or the resume writing and job interviews if college is not in the picture.
You can pull the “Because I said so” card for these. You do know better than that sassy senior how important these all are. Somebody still has to be the adult, and it still has to be mom, I'm afraid.
7) Plan on celebrating graduation. This is a big deal and should not go unsung. Even if only a family meal out at a nice restaurant, or a small gathering for cake and ice cream at the house. Make much of that swaggering scholar just because they finished. Boost up their ego — they will need that for when they have to handle becoming a nobody again next year.
I wish I could say that things get easier now, but I know that you are already aware that parenting is a lifetime endeavor. Some things do (and don't feel guilty for looking forward to less laundry!!), but other things are just as rough (or more so) on that mother's heart of ours that can't remember not being filled to the brim with love for this human being who is a high school senior this year. There is actual physical pain in the parting…
This is another part of the sacrifice we make when we take on this task called motherhood. We've made so many already; another one WILL hurt, but it will be a good pain, a necessary pain, a pain that says we care with all we have and are. “If you love something, let it go” — but we don't really have to. I have never wanted to hold them back — and I know you don't, either — but there will always be a tether of love that they can't get away from.
It's going to be a great year, and you have a kid to be proud of. Enjoy your high school senior while you have them with you, and then watch them take on the world. It's a wonderful thing to see. Trust me, I know.
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