When I arrived at my oldest son’s high school Senior Parent Meeting, I was startled to see the room filled with parents, pencils poised, ready to take notes on every single detail for every single event of their kid’s senior year. Not the details about college and college applications, our college counselors had already prepared us for that. This meeting was about the other stuff – every other thing we needed to know about our kids’ senior year of high school.
By the time I left my first Senior Parent Meeting, I realized that my vision of a senior year filled with pleasantly teary moments of nostalgia and love was naïve. Senior year is an event. It is work and emotional and stressful and expensive, and when it is over, we are left exhausted in a messy house that will soon be minus one family member.
I’ve had three high school senior years in the last five years, and I have found some things to be universally true.
5 Truths for When Our Kids Are High School Seniors
1. College Applications Are Work
Experts advise parents to enjoy the process, and while I did enjoy parts of the process, I found the applications to be just plain work. Of course, our kids did the brunt of the labor, but we served as proof readers and time managers. Plus, the applications never seem to end. I learned that after the initial applications are finished, there will be new additional applications for scholarships, special housing opportunities, and learning communities – all with new forms, essays, deadlines. The college application process is time-consuming, detailed work for the students and the parents.
2. It’s Expensive
Senior year means extra expenses. The opportunities to spend money during our kids’ senior year felt limitless – senior portraits, senior rings, graduation announcements, Spring Break trips, prom, off-campus lunches, Beach Week, dinner events, luncheons, plus all those college applications add-up to a lot of extra expenses. We didn’t agree to all of these things, and I’m sure I’ve left some out, but even so, we found high school senior year to be a financial hit.
3. There Will Be Stuff
Senior year produces a lot of stuff – the kind of stuff that is sweet at the time, but then you don’t know what to do with it. Stuff that is lovingly created by talented parents, but stuff nonetheless. Right now my third son’s desk is piled high with the kind of stuff that is too precious to be thrown away but too unimportant to go to college with him.
Senior year means it will be the last time I see most of the parents I’ve hung out with for the last several years. I would love to report that it isn’t true, that we all still get together and laugh, but I can’t. Too much of our time together was situational. We sat on the same bleachers for four years, we hung costumes back stage for four years, we served on the same committees for four years. I do see a few old friends here and there and we hug and talk and laugh, but it isn’t the same because things aren’t the same. I miss the people I had so much fun with over the years.
5. Our Family Life Will Be Different
Senior year does mark the end of our family life as we’ve known it. As parents we will never again know as much about our kid’s day to day life and activities. Once our kids go to college, we won’t really know their friends, daily routines, or activities. They will fill us in, but it isn’t the same as experiencing it firsthand. In high school we know all the inside stories, once they go to college we have to be given back stories and introductions – it’s different.
I’ve been through three high school senior years so far, and I’ve got one more to go. My daughter is Class of 2022 so, I have some time to recover until I get to go through it all again for one last time. The events of senior year are a lot of mess and stress, but I think it is worth it.
When it is her turn, I will show up to the Senior Parent Meeting with my pencil, ready to go. I know that I won’t want to leave out a single detail or event of her senior year. I’ve learned that I need all the mess, stress, and emotions of senior year. I need that burst of activity and emotions to get me through the realization that this is it. Another child is grown and my job is done – well, it will be mostly done – I’ll still have to figure out what to do with all that stuff
Maureen Paschal is a tutor, teacher, librarian, and a mom to four almost grown kids. She has learned the hard way that teachers don’t always give birth to kids who are great students. Join her as her last child navigates the teen years, and as she zigzags between realistic expectations and hopeless despair! She blogs at Raising The Capable Student, and you can find her on Facebook and Pinterest. She is also a top contributor for Today Parenting.