My son was in middle school when I first noticed them: the social media posts shared by parents of high school seniors. I read as parents shed happy and sad tears, as they burst with pride as their babies experienced all the milestones of senior year.
I wondered how I would handle my son’s senior year when it arrived.
Well, I’m here now, halfway through it, and I’m having “all the feels” as they say. On any given day, I experience what seems like 57 different emotions. Not only because my son is a senior, but because he is a senior during a pandemic.
I feel sad about what my son is missing during his senior year
I feel sad. That he is online for his senior year where we live and not experiencing things like going to Homecoming or attending a college fair in-person. That the winter season for the sport he has loved since he was four years old has been paused and may not happen at all. That he’s growing up and leaving for college in mere months.
I feel worried. Will he get COVID? Will our family? Is my senior keeping up with his classes? Is he even waking up for his classes?
I feel confused. What day is it? What month? Why do the kids in other states get to attend school in-person and play their sports, but not my senior? Have I ordered a yearbook yet?
I feel ashamed. Sometimes when I express my feelings about my son’s senior year, I hear “But people are dying.” And I feel like the worst person in the world for thinking about my son’s senior year during this time.
I have so many feelings about my son’s senior year
I feel brave. We can do our part for the greater good. We can wear masks, stay at home, socially distance, and get in line for our vaccines. We can beat this. I also feel brave as I hurl towards high school graduation and get ready to launch my son into the world. He is ready, I think, and I can let go of him. Okay, at least a little bit.
I feel exhausted. From reading all the emails about COVID from his high school. From reading all the emails about senior year from his high school. From booking senior pictures, submitting them to the yearbook, ordering his cap and gown, managing in-person and virtual college visits, reviewing his college applications, and filling out the FAFSA. I’m not sure what’s next but I hope my heart and my credit card are ready.
I feel proud. Proud that my senior could finally take the SAT this fall, wearing a mask no less. Proud that he has been accepted to several colleges so far. Proud that he picked up a part-time job while his sports season is in flux.
I feel helpless. I cannot make his high school resume in-person learning, even if he wishes he could go in person. I cannot get his sports season back, even if he wishes he could play. I cannot make this pandemic go away, even if I, my son, and everyone else wishes it would go away.
I feel hopeful. Things will get better soon. There are the vaccines. And if we keep doing our part, maybe my senior will get to attend school in-person some days or play his sports season after all.
See what I mean about having “all the feels”?
The strongest feeling is love
There’s one more feeling I experience every day, too, and it’s the best one. I feel loved. My senior says, “Love you, Mom” when I bid him good night. He shows me love when he hugs me or just takes out the trash. These little bursts of love are what all parents of seniors cherish in the waning days of senior year, pandemic or not.
And just like all the parents of seniors before me, I feel optimistic that this love will continue and grow long after his senior year is over. That is what I feel deepest of all.