By this time two years ago, I was a mess. I’m talking ugly crying at concerts, school musicals, ring ceremonies, prom parent meetings, college essay writing workshops – you name it. My older daughter was a junior in high school and I was getting ready to miss her when she went away to college. Ridiculous, I know, but it happened. I cried because I felt for the parents of seniors, whose ‘last’ concert in high school this was. I cried because next year I would be the parent of the senior whose ‘last’ it was.
I spent a good part of her Winter Concert digging for tissues in my bag. It’s a good thing they were singing “Africa” so my quiet sobs were drowned out by the sounds of musical rain. This was junior year, mind you, not senior year. But my crying had convenient timing – I still owe the chorus director a big thank you for her song choice.
As her junior year continued, the tears came like a tidal wave. At the end of the school musical, my lips were quivering as the cast took their bows – my daughter was only a junior and had another year to participate, but the kids on stage whom I had grown attached to were moving on, which reminded me that my daughter would soon be moving on. Instead of enjoying the finale, I was wiping my eyes, trying to hide my face in my jacket, pretending I had something in my eye. More ridiculousness, but I couldn’t help myself. These kids who played Cards Against Humanity in my basement while eating an endless supply of pizza would soon be in Delaware, Florida and Massachusetts. I cried because it meant that would be my daughter soon enough. But I still had another school year with her being home, so what the heck was my problem?!
Senior year came, and the tears continued. I scooted out at the end of her horseback riding show, which I knew would likely be her last since she wasn’t planning to continue to ride in college. I heard the commentator from the speaker stand announce her ribbons as I was digging through my glove compartment for anything that even slightly resembled a tissue. Seriously, how many times can I tell people there’s something in my eye?!
I cried in Target when I was buying a shower caddy, over-the-door mirror and twin extra-long sheets. Who cries in Target? Apparently, I do – but I tried to make it look like I wasn’t crying, because that’s ridiculous. Then of course as I’m wandering aimlessly through the aisles, with the obligatory $100 worth of other things I didn’t need, but had to have, in my cart, I bumped into someone from work so I quickly found sunglasses to put on. Who wears sunglasses in Target? Well, when you’re crying for no good reason, you resort to desperate measures. I made it to the checkout counter, but forgot what I went to Target for in the first place. Who needs toothpaste, anyway?!
Fast forward to this year. I survived sending my older daughter off to college, but now my younger daughter is a junior in high school and I’m not crying this time.
I love her just as much as my older daughter. Maybe more. I want her to go away to college, if that’s what she wants, just like my older daughter. Maybe more. I’m just as proud of her. I enjoy all of the events she participates in and love to watch her have fun with her friends. I love her to pieces. I will miss her friends who are seniors when they go away this year. I will miss her like crazy when she goes away next year. I will even miss getting up early to bring her to Drivers Ed, and signing permission slips at the last-minute. Now, I want to enjoy every moment with her, experience every cheer, and listen to every song she plays with the band, no tsunami allowed.
I want a junior year do-over as a mom. And I’m very lucky that I get one.
Crying did me no good – it didn’t help me feel better about my older daughter leaving, and I missed out on fully celebrating her high school experiences. She was on top of the world, and I was a slobbering mess for moments here and there. So, I told myself, “Don’t be a slobbering mess this time.”
You don’t have to cry, either – or get it all out watching This Is Us if you have to (that might be what I’m doing). Enjoy your child’s lasts – you deserve to feel good about them moving on. This is what you’ve been waiting for, right? They made it to their junior year in one piece. Breathe deeply, love much, and hold on tight – to your tissues, that is, just in case.
I take a deep breath and remind myself that I left all of my tears at the concerts, shows and the dorm supply department of Target last time. Crying just left my face splotchy. Who wants a splotchy face? In Target?!
So, I’m going to put on my big girl panties, leave the tissues home and decide to enjoy every special moment with her during her junior, and senior, year, from the ring ceremony to the prom parent meeting, to graduation – and not have something in my eye.
Randee Bonagura is an elementary school administrator by day, mom and stepmom of 4 girls by night. She reads, writes, crafts and plays clarinet in a local ensemble, and adopts way too many rescue kittens in her spare time. She lives in New York with her husband. Follow her at Just Ask Randee.