Last Call List for Senior Year

Here I am, 365 days out from the empty nest.  The temptation is to spend a year boring you with lasts.  The last first day of high school, the last birthday at home (trust me, this one is the real killer), or the last varsity game. But I am going to try and resist the pull to be maudlin and instead create a Parent’s Bucket List for Senior Year in high school, perhaps better thought of as the Last Call List….Everything I wish I had done before my kids went to college.

Here is the Bucket List for Senior Year in High School, a list of everything you need to do before your child leaves home for college.

1. Pay a professional photographer

Try for that one perfect set of family pictures that no amateur can capture.  It seems like the kids are grown, that the need to document their gorgeous faces has lost its urgency as the transitions slow.  Wrong.  That just-finished-childhood-not-quite-adult look is fleeting. Get someone who knows what they are doing to capture it.

2. Talk about failure and tell them of your failings

Tell them why you failed and how you recovered and how, for some period of time you thought you might not.  We loom so large in our children’s lives, as the people who once held superpowers. Let them know how those powers have often failed you as both an adult and a parent.

3. Buy them one beautiful thing

This moment, these last days, are worthy of commemorating and do not let them slip by unmarked.  Jewelry and watches are traditional choices for senior year, but beauty and meaning, not expense, are the salient factors in this purchase.

4. Tell them secrets

Disclose what they just might not know, things about your life that you, perhaps, glossed over, but now realize that they are old enough to understand.  You will be letting them know that things are not always as they seem, and that they are a trusted near-adult confident, worthy of sharing family secrets.  You child is probably 18, talk to them like the adult that they will soon be;  it will fill them with the confidence to get there.

5. Let them go before they are gone

I kept my kids on an insanely tight leash senior year.  I monitored their every movement and made them check-in constantly.  In short, I drove them crazy.  And then I didn’t.  Once they were on the downslope of senior year, once everything they could do for college admission had been done, I let them take some victory laps, the well deserved privilege of senior year. They broke curfews, went out on a few school nights, and had a taste of freedom to come.

6. Have those painful talks

Sit down and have the discussion, the one you will wish you had had if, God forbid, anything ever goes wrong.  Sure, you can tell them where the wills are and how you hope to see your possessions disbursed.  But this is not that talk.  This is the talk where you recognize that you are speaking to a near-adult and you tell them why you love their other parent, what makes a good marriage, how shocking it was to find yourself a parent and yet how marvelous, what kind of wife/mother husband/father you hope they will one day be.  It will feel sad, and poignant, but while you are still in that day-to-day high school routine, take a step back and talk about the really big things in life.

7. And just for a minute grab them tight and hold them close

Give them the morning hug that had slipped out of your routine, and the kiss on the forehead that was, for years, a nightly ritual.  Sit by their bed with a hand on theirs because this is the time to try and capture that feeling forever.  This is the moment for that final squeeze, the brief moment when we clench them even tighter, hold them close enough to take our breath away and then let them go.



  1. says

    My son has been on that slippery slide to “freedom” for several years and he’s 19 now. He’s trying to find his way toward his future and isn’t sure – of anything, but he’ll find it, I know. I’m dreading the day he moves out but he’s gone so much now that it will not be totally weird not to have him in the house. Still, I will miss the daily kisses and hugs goodbye and the daily knowing where he’s going and what he’s doing. I’ll miss everything. Man, I’ve got it bad.

  2. says

    That was beautiful. My son’s a sophomore in college, and my daughter is a senior. I’ve got it bad too. But your post was very upbeat. Thanks!

  3. marlen says

    Oh girls hold on tight the permanent move out is even worse than the going away to college. My son moved out to his own apartment I want to say 2 years ago, and despite the fact that you do go on, its not the same. He leads a busy life a bit far from us, mind you its only 40 minutes, but far enough to make it out of the way to visit often, so you try not to call too often, you never know what the right time is, you dont ask the personal questions, things you would have just automatically found out if he lived with you, you wait, wait for the moment when you do meet up and have the time to talk and then you update yourself about who he is with, details of his job, friends, try to figure out if he is happy, analyze him to see if he looks healthy , is he too skinny, does he eat right, does he sleep enough etc. So enjoy the high school years and the college years because those years they still need you for various things but when they are accomplished and living their own lives then you are just remembered ocassionally, yes loved we know that, but technically you are in the bottom of their ever so exciting life. Okay its normal , but it also kinda sucks. If I knew then what I know now I would have been a real pain in their butts and enjoyed every second of the years they where under my roof. LOL… good luck ladies….

    • says

      Oh Marlen, your last line hit me in the gut like a basketball:
      “If I knew then what I know now I would have been a real pain in their butts and enjoyed every second of the years they where under my roof.”
      I’m putting this up with a sticky note to read every day. THANK YOU for writing all of your words which hit home to me so very much.

  4. says

    Just beautiful! I am a decade past the start of my empty nest but I remember my daughter’s senior year like it was yesterday. I, too, was very strict for the beginning of the year until the college apps were done, etc. but then appreciated the importance of her being able to test out her independence while still at home. I stored up lots and lots of hugs but still missed her terribly when she headed off to college. You are so smart to approach senior year with a mindful plan in the form of your Parent’s Bucket List.

  5. Carpool Goddess says

    Great list, Lisa. Now is a good time for sharing secrets that seem appropriate. I wish I would have taken more professional photos too. Sounds like the third time is the charm :)

  6. says

    Oh, this made me teary. I’m so grateful for your blog. I love having such useful and loving things to contemplate while there is still time to do them all. I appreciate the wise peek ahead.

  7. says

    Just reared up at the end… I don’t have a high schooler yet but I imagine that it will be hard to watch my last go through his senior year. I especially like number 7. Grab them tight! I think this is a lesson for all ages. Every day is the last for someone or the last of something. Live and love like it is!

  8. Sue says

    Love this! (TBK pic looks like Bucknell, yes?)

  9. Sarah Hughes says

    Great piece Lisa made me feel tearey eyed and I’ve still got 5 years to reach the last year of school!


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    […] Lisa writes: Here I am, 365 days out from the empty nest. The temptation is to spend a year boring you with lasts. The last first day of school, the last birthday at home (trust me, this one is the real killer), or the last varsity game.  […]

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