It’s all so completely overwhelming. There you are just cruising along through the high school years when BAM! You get a letter over the summer from the school’s “senior picture photography studio” with the date for your child’s SENIOR PICTURE. What? A senior picture? But I don’t have a senior yet! Oh, but you do. Because while you blinked, that awkward nervous freshman-the one who has been eating you out of house and home and memorizing try theorems at 1 a.m. for the last three years – woke up with a beard and an appointment time for his high school senior picture.
And from what you’ve heard from friends who have already been through the senior year, you immediately start to panic, and wonder about the list of all the things you need to do (and not forget to do), to commemorate this very special milestone. And then you start to hyperventilate. Take a deep breaths, moms. Because of course-while there’s a load of all the “senior” things you must do this year (and not forget to do!)- there are also plenty of things you are allowed to totally let go and not stress or worry about. And from one been there done that mom to another, you’re gonna need to concentrate on how to reduce your stress load this year, not add to it. Trust me.
5 Things Parents of High School Seniors Should NOT Worry About
1. Where everyone else’s kid is going to college
Stop. Just stop right there. Do not get into conversations/debates/comparisons about who is going where and with what scholarship. Ivy? State college? Private college? Community college? Trade school? Military? Workforce? Your child will end up right where he is supposed to end up, doing what he supposed to be doing, and where or what everyone else ends up doing will have zero impact on your child’s college or future success. By Christmas of his first year out of high school, you won’t even be able to recall where the valedictorian ended up going, and honestly, it won’t matter anyway. Jump from the comparison train STAT.
2. Senior Pictures
Yes, you need to show up for the senior picture appointment that the school provides so your kid can actually be in the school yearbook, but beyond that? YOU decide what you want to do, and again, no comparing here. Just because so and so hired a high-end photographer and spent $2,000 on a senior photo session, doesn’t mean you’re expected (or need) to do the same. Costs during the end of senior year add up very quickly, and it may be you have to forego a senior photo shoot and that’s OK. An alternative? Plan on getting some great photos of your child on his college campus the following fall.
It’s gonna happen, so don’t fight it. By the 12th grade of formal education, EVERYONE is tired and it’s natural for both you and your child to be very weary and honestly, kind of over it. So yes, there will be days and weeks of your kid walking around in a daze with absolutely zero motivation or intent to do actual school work, and honestly, I don’t blame them. We’ve just put them through a vigorous three years of, “EVERY GRADE COUNTS SO DO NOT MESS UP EVER,” so of course they’ve hit the school wall, and a couple of days of skipping school and being lazy is in order (and very much deserved!) Let them catch a much-needed break during their senior year, and don’t stress about a little off the wagon time.
If your high school prom was one of the best nights of your life, that doesn’t mean it will be (or needs to be) for your child. And it may even be that they have no interest in going to any high school dances whatsoever (prom included), and you need to support that. Resist the urge to say, “But it’s your senior prom, your last dance and you will regret not going!” Just because everything becomes the “last” during their senior year, doesn’t mean it has to be done. There is plenty of life still headed their way. Allow their senior year choices to be their choices. It will make for a lot less arguing, and *nest soiling. *see #5
5. Knowing them less and less (and possibly fighting more.)
This will be a hugely transformational year in your parenting journey. You will have moments where you will you find yourself sobbing over the meaningfulness of it all (your baby is all grown up!) The often overused but starkly true cliché “it goes so fast” will be on the tip of your tongue almost daily, and with it, more tears. And then those days will be followed by ones where you want to literally start packing up their room and shipping them out, because fighting. This is natural! It’s called soiling the nest, and it means your child has outgrown your home so to speak, and that’s a very good thing. It will help make their transition of living at home under you roof to living independently of you a little easier on you both.
Feeling suddenly ready for them to leave and start their next season of life doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, and knowing them less and less during their senior year doesn’t mean you’re not an involved parent. It just means that the course of parenting is following the right path, and a temporary consequence of that may mean you feel more disconnected from them than you ever have before. Don’t worry. Once they move out, you’ll be happily surprised to see your relationship with them changes in a wonderfully new and mature way. (And don’t worry, they will be calling and will still need you. Because money!)
Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. She is on Facebook at 4BoysMother and on twitter at @melissarunsaway.