Can We Give this Year’s Seniors a Chance To Love Their Senior Year?

My high schooler’s senior picture session did not get off to a very promising start. She’d scheduled an evening time slot in hopes of getting sunset lighting, but just minutes before the assigned time, her photographer (a fabulous recent grad from my daughter’s school) called from the middle of a family emergency. Could they push the time back an hour and a half?

My teenager fought back tears to avoid ruining her makeup, and we waited—anxiously watching the sun start its descent. We were both sure she’d run out of daylight, but her photographer assured us her camera handled low light well and promised the photos would be stunning. 

Which they were: the sinking sun backlit my daughter and literally made her glow. The light, as it turned out, was just right.

Senior year might not be how they imagined it, but our teens can still love it. (Twenty20 @SBPhoto)

Senior year for the Class of 2021 will be different

This is how it might go for all of senior year for our 2021 kids: things might not unfold as they originally planned (way back when they were freshman, for instance), but the light can still be right for them to love the results.

Of course, we’ve been hearing murmurings for a while now that the class of 2021 is in for a bumpy ride. We might not know exactly how bumpy, but we do know our seniors are in all likelihood not going to have the kind of year they thought they would less than six months ago.

Will there be arts, sports?

Senior sports and arts seasons? Maybe. Or maybe already definitely not. In-person classes? Possibly. But probably not all day, five days a week. Masks? Almost certainly. College campus visits and, maybe, college itself? TBD. Awards ceremonies and graduation? Hopefully…but better tell Grandma and Grandpa there might be tickets, and they might be limited. 

And if coronavirus spikes too much again? We know what that would mean.

Our class of 2021 kids know it, too. I’ve got two of them living in my house right this minute (one high school, one college), so I’ve got a clear view of just how much they know. 

Last year’s juniors watched the COVID-19 version of senior year unfold for their 2020 friends and classmates. They didn’t go to their graduation ceremonies, they didn’t go (or haven’t gone yet) to their open houses, they didn’t react to prom pictures, they didn’t cheer last-season teammates.

Our 2021 kids can hardly hope to escape all the social media posts and news clips warning them they’re going to have it “even worse.”

And they’ve heard the dire predictions from pretty much everyone IRL.

They do not have the bliss of ignorance.

I am not saying we should shield our incoming seniors from all this, even if we could. We are all living in a new “surreality,” and our grads-to-be are socially conscious and smart and strong enough to be trusted with truth.

They are seniors, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment

But let’s give them the whole truth. Which is that this—THIS—is their senior year, and they deserve to make the most of it and to have our support and encouragement and energy and enthusiasm while they’re doing it. One way or the other, the next nine months are going to be a once-in-a-lifetime season, and they still have every chance to love so much of it.

So maybe we can check the doubtful expression on our faces when we’re interacting with them.

Maybe we can feel free NOT to share every possible worst-case scenario.

Maybe we can bite our tongues and not voice all the “if onlys” stabbing our minds and hearts.

Maybe we can gently coach friends and family that if they don’t have something encouraging to say, they should feel free to stick to “congratulations!”

Maybe we can brag a little more loudly about our kids…preferably when they can overhear us.

Maybe we can look forward with gusto to every traditional senior-year moment until or unless we get absolute confirmation one isn’t going to happen.

Maybe we can glean wisdom from our brave 2020 predecessors and be ready to incorporate some of their best and brightest ideas…the ones they’d choose to do again even if they had the choice not to.

Let’s celebrate our kids as best we can

Maybe we can celebrate our seniors with an enthusiasm lit up by what has not changed—the fact that they are some of the most inspiring people we’ve ever had the privilege of knowing—rather than dimmed by what has (no need to rehash that).

In all this, we still can and must grieve their losses and let-downs with them. We must allow them to feel what they feel. Encouraging them to love the kind of senior year they end up having doesn’t mean we push down sadness over the kind they don’t.

But since figuring out what graduation gift to give our kids is almost always a tricky proposition, maybe we can take the opportunity right in front of us and give these incredible young men and women the package deal of hope, optimism, perseverance, creativity, and love…love for them and love for what they themselves end up loving.

And really, this package seems only too fitting a gift, because this is, after all, what they’ve given us all along.

More to Read:

Mama, You Say You’ll Miss Me But I’m Going to Miss You, Too We miss our teens when they leave home, but they miss us too.

About Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She’s been married for 25 years to an exceedingly patient guy she picked up in church. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebookand Twitter

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