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!
Be prepared. The summer before they go to college will be one of the most challenging summers between you and your child. In the end, you’ll both be glad they are leaving, but very shortly after that all will be forgotten and restored. It’s happened to me twice, and I’m expecting it to happen again.
Thank you for this, although I just took my baby to college last month. I do agree with everything you said. On the first point you made about the “first lasts” I did that her entire year and by spring, she says to me,
“mom, you act like I am dying”. I caught my breath and began to explain to her that this is a new spot for me as well, I need to cherish these times because I am not going to get to do them again, for anyone. She is my baby and I think that it was hard for her to understand until I pointed out the reason why I felt the way I did.
She was the Class President, the Honor Society President, the captain of the soccer team, the Distinguished Young Woman of the county we live in, she was voted future first citizen, she was the Valedictorian and rated #1 in her class. I mean the girl did so much it was crazy! But it has in a way prepared me for this time of her being in college because she was so busy that she wasn’t here a lot, so I was being prepared ahead of time for this season. I was on an emotional roller coaster last year and everyone thought I would be a basket case when I took her to college, but I have done ok. God, has been so good to me and surrounded me with people who are constantly checking on me and making sure I am ok.
Thanks for the posts, I appreciate them.
I have a senior now. It’s expensive. That’s about all I know right now.
This is a great series. I have a senior this year so we are navigating this right now.
I work on staff as a life group minister for all ages of women!
However, I have a senior and will have another in 2years:) Your article was encouraging and I have shared it on Facebook . Boys seem harder to motivate and it has been extremely frustrating to know that if my son had prepared more for the SAT- he would be going to the college of his dreams? I know there are life lessons in all this! AS you mentioned, most students don’t know what they want to do or passionate about. So, my son wants to be in the FBI and before Criminal minds and CSI – my oldest has loved mystery, documentaries, history etc, but has no desire to be a History teacher:/ Thanks so much for the words of wisdom!
This is a great article. I especially agree with being proactive with learning a new hobby and surrounding yourself with people who understand. I’m actually a single parent of a senior right now and he’s my only child. So I’ve been very purposeful in being proactive to get connected with other people who understand and exploring volunteer opportunities to connect with like minded people.