My kids are going to graduate from high school in a matter of weeks and in a matter of months, they will head off to college.
None of this comes as a surprise. I’ve known it intellectually pretty much since the day they were born. Knowing, as veteran-mom friends have warned, that “you’re really going to feel it when they are gone.” I’ve even written about my dawning realization of this next step of parenthood.
But there’s a difference between knowing something in your head and knowing something in your soul. And this month, with actions that are positively quotidian, the knowledge is seeping into my soul.
First came the realization that I would make the last Catholic school tuition payment. The only rational reason for feeling sentimental about this is that soon I’ll be pining for the (relatively) small payments associated with those years of education. By the end of the month, I’ll be writing other checks: the ones that will secure their spot in the Class of 2018 for the schools of their choice. (Of course, before those checks will be written, my children need to reach some decisions, hence the at least three more “Accepted Student Day” trips planned for this month.)
But I’m pretty sure the banal moment that sent me over the edge was the note that came from St. John’s College High School outlining all the events coming up to graduation: receipt of caps and gowns, prom, senior picnic, graduation practice at the Basilica, teachers’ reception for seniors and, of course, the big one, graduation itself.
I can almost feel the breakneck speed with which these weeks will go by. I want to tell myself what countless women told me about my wedding day: “Remember to soak it all in; don’t be so distracted that you don’t create the memories.”
But already it feels like these last months are careering out of control. I’m tempted to start making lists, because listmaking is how I order my universe. Not just the kinds of lists ticking off what they need before they leave for school. Rather, lists of the movies we want to watch on Netflix before they go. (Recently we’ve been watching “The West Wing” — something every parent should do with their teenagers; talk about conversation bait. But when we recently logged the finale for Season 2, I realized that at one or two episodes a week, there was no way we’d reach the end of Josiah Bartlet’s presidency before the start of their college careers.)
And so I’m coming to realize that there’s no real way to impose order on this process. So much of the next few months will be bittersweet. But I’m going to try to focus on the sweet. Instead of wishing the boys’ dad were alive to see them driving off to prom, I’ll focus on knowing that of course he’s looking down on them. Instead of lamenting that we have no tickets to Nationals games in September, I’m going to savor the games we do go to in the sweltering heat of July and August.
And I suspect when they head off to college, I will realize that it’s not the end I’m fearing it will be. Yes, a change. A transition. But this truth remains: I won’t stop being their mom and they won’t stop being my sons.