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Dear Mom of a High School Senior

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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16 thoughts on “Dear Mom of a High School Senior”

  1. I am so happy to read your post and to relate with what I have been feeling about my son ever since he has come to high school. just the thought that he may be moving out to another city for his graduation makes me weep. I love him so much and Not able to make a shift from my little baby to my big boy now. I am sure like all monthers I will be able to get into the new phase of life.

  2. I love that you emphasize to not exclaim, vent, or critique when your high school is just trying to talk with you. I personally know that it makes such a huge difference to just be there for them, not necessarily try to “fix” what they are talking about. Also, to not make them feel bad for what they are sharing because next time they might just won’t want to talk with you. This was a great reminder, thanks!

    1. Wow, somehow I missed your comment! I am SO sorry! Yes, I agree that tone of voice and just listening go a LONG way towards preserving that relationship. Thanks for stopping by! :-)

  3. Corinne R. Constable

    Hey, Annie, I’m Corinne. Mother of one. My daughter, Emilyanna is the best miracle to every bless my life. Reading this has brought me to tears. I thank you for sharing this it has helped greatly. You see, my sweet husband died when our beautiful daughter was just three. So it has been just she and I. I wish I had had your advice and experience way back then. Better later than never.

    Thank you so much! xo

  4. Received notification that my son earned a varsity letterman jacket today and although he’s still a junior it hit he’s not a little boy anymore. Every mom calls their children their baby/babies and I’m admittedly worse than most. As a single mom since he was 1 it’s been just him & I and boy have I babied him! I have no idea why this hit me so hard but God knows when to intervene and your letter appeared right in the middle of searching for ideas for his jacket and am so grateful it did. I could barely read it for all the tears but between the tears & your words I felt enormous relief & encouragement that there’s a middle and my fear is normal. I have to say, thank God I only have to go through this once! I don’t think I could handle twice much less three times. Thank you for having the courage to share your experiences and the desire to help other moms . If your hope from this was to help at least one person you accomplished that today. Thank you ever so much

    1. Oh Shannon, thank you so much for these words. It is truly a wonderful year and you will love watching him spread his wings and fly when it is over. HUGS!!

      1. Thank you for adding the thoughts of resumes for those not going to college and celebrating the accomplishment of graduation from high school! I have three kids. One dropped out of college after one semester, but is a very successful business owner. Number two dropped out after one year, but has a job and is fully supporting herself. Number three is graduating high school with a certification for electricity and is already working as an electrician, but he will go to local technical school. It wasn’t my desire for them to not go to college but it was my desire for them to be successful after high school and they definitely are doing that. Thank you for a great article!

  5. Thank you for this!!!! I needed to hear this…my first is a senior and I’m struggling so much to let him go. It can be crushing at times. ❤️

    1. Jaynann, I’m so glad you were helped! I know how you feel, so much. Three of my kids are now living multiple hours away (two of them 10+ hours…) and that is crushing when I stop to think about it, too. But it is truly wonderful to watch them taking on the world, even if it is from afar. Hang in there! HUGS!

  6. Hi Annie,
    I’m not a first timer I’ve had three girls graduate we made it a Big deal and two have moved on to make lives of their own and have families. My third has a career and still lives at home. However my youngest, my son which has a bond with me like nothing I have experienced. Not like with my girls.. Its so painful! Also with the pandemic it’s as if I’m doing this for the first time all over again, I thought I’d be a pro!
    Your words resonate with me and am doing my best to keep it together!

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