As I mentioned at the beginning, my October series will alternate posts for the senior in high school who’s in the throes of the college application process AND for the younger students who have a year – or five – before they have to start thinking about it. While I’m writing it with the parent in mind, students will gain insight as well.
Today I’d like to give you a sort of warning, what you may experience when you have a senior. I’m inviting you parents of seniors (and those who’ve had children previously graduate) to add to this post in comments; by no means is my list exhaustive.
1. You’re going to be an emotional roller coaster.
This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a normal thing, and it will serve you well to anticipate it coming. The day your child begins her senior year, you’re going to begin a series of what I call “First Lasts,” and they’re cause to celebrate, even if tears companion them. You’ve been preparing 18 years or so for this year, and it’s good and right if your child is on track to graduate on time. Suddenly, formerly insignificant things take on greater meaning because you’ll sense the eventuality of your baby leaving home. Be on guard not to rain on your son’s or daughter’s senior parade, however; your baby is eyeing freedom and independence, and celebrating accomplishment and new adventures. Let them.
2. Your child will likely hurt your feelings.
This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a normal thing, and it will serve you well to anticipate it happening. And remember above everything else, your child doesn’t mean to and will probably be oblivious. You’re both going to be very aware of time but with very different perspectives: you’re going to realize how little time you have with your baby living (primarily) under your roof, and that child of yours, maybe for the first time, will feel how quickly time flies. And this is where hurt feelings are bound to arise: you’re going to want to spend as much time with your kid as possible while he or she is going to be busy (what feels like) all of the time! Hold fast to this truth: it doesn’t mean you aren’t loved but children have no idea how much they are loved.
3. Your senior will revert back to his toddler days.
Remember when your little one acted as if the entire world revolved around her? Well, if you managed to get that under control for most of the preschool, elementary, middle and high school years, be prepared for its return. High school seniors are the Big Men on Campus and they’re celebrated for good reason: high school graduation is one of the most memorable milestones in our lives. It’s the passage from youth to young adulthood. It’s both an end to a beginning and a beginning to a (new) end. Schools offer special events and celebrations throughout the year and culture feeds that. Even the best kids who never behave with an entitlement mentality may act with little regard for how their choices are affecting home (see #2 above). They aren’t being jerks, they’re just seizing their moment.
4. You might find yourself in crisis.
Ever heard of mid-life crisis? I’m here to tell you it will not “look” like what you think it will. If this is your first senior, you’ll begin to have your first taste of empty nest; if it’s your last senior, well, you’re almost there. Your life has been wrapped up for decades in taking care of your children and managing their physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs and training. Years in the making but suddenly overnight, they won’t be there for you to manage on a daily basis and WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW? What has defined you for the majority of your adult life, no longer does. It’s bittersweet pill to swallow. Your best bet is to anticipate the changes that companion your children leaving. If you’re married, invest in your relationship with your spouse. Be proactive in returning to the workplace or learning a new hobby. Do not be passive. Surround yourself with others who understand and talk about it. Find ways to give to others with your time and talents.
Above all, enjoy this season! Regardless of any sense of loss, there is much more gain in this time of life. What a privilege and joy it is to launch your children into the world, to become who they’re destined to be. Praise God for their brains and abilities, for their uniqueness, for all they have to offer. You touch the future through the lives of your children, and your impact lives on in their lives! Remember, you haven’t been raising your children to be your babies forever; it is best for both of you for them to move to next things.
What advice or encouragement do you have for parents of seniors?
Let’s help them know what to expect when they’re expecting…a senior!