Summer has faded once again. My family has transitioned haltingly back into the daily rhythms of another school year. But this is not just any school year. We are a couple of weeks into senior year of high school for my youngest child – a boy who is over six feet tall, yet still is six years old in my mind’s eye. With a melodramatic flourish of my hand, in my best Count Olaf voice, I declare, “It is The Beginning of the End,” a year jam-packed full of so many “lasts,” while simultaneously laser focused on the future.
From the rearview mirror, all of our children’s school years seem to pass quickly. But senior year goes by FAST. Like, Usain Bolt fast. Blink once and it is winter break. Blink twice and you are straining your neck and wiping your eyes to see every single step your child is taking to cross that stage at graduation.
For a parent, senior year seems like a kaleidoscopic blur of two repetitive tasks: meeting deadlines and handing over your credit card. Before my son could even get a school parking pass or take his ID photo, we had to pay a vaguely termed “Graduation Fee.” (Probably to help pay for the rental of said stage that he will be crossing in late May.)
Our calendars are already heavily marked up with Must Be Done and/or Paid By dates: senior portraits, sport and club fees, college applications and letters of recommendation. A friend has already texted me, “I just want it to be Thanksgiving NOW and have all of the college stuff DONE!! [Triple Frazzled- Face emoji]”
I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of wishing away a certain phase of your child’s life. I step forward, head bowed, into the dimly lit Mothering Hall of Shame and admit I have done just that. I don’t sugarcoat the fact that I was never a huge fan of the baby and toddler phases of motherhood. Please don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved and cherished my children from the second they were born, but I spent more than just a few sleepless nights wishing away my daughter’s colicky phase, and wanting time to fast forward during the exhausting couple of years my son seemed to never stop moving, keeping me constantly on edge, waiting for the next tumble or crash to happen.
There is a real danger of missing out on the present, both good and bad, when we are focusing so intently on the future. Senior year of high school is a particularly treacherous time, when almost every aspect of the year is directed at the next phase – college.
Your senior’s social media feeds have probably already been lit up with pictures from older friends, siblings and cousins. They are seeing countless images of dorm rooms, groups of new friends and beautiful campus scenery. They are already imagining themselves in those rooms and on those campuses. They may be slowly beginning to realize that every adult they now encounter is required to ask of them one question, “Where are you applying to college?” By November they will eagerly want to don that t-shirt that simply states, “Don’t Ask Me About College.” Even if they are lucky enough know where they are headed by the holidays, all of the well-meaning relatives will gather around and pepper them with questions about college majors, AP credits and living arrangements.
So this time around, I am trying a different tactic. I am willing myself to be mindful during the swiftly passing days of my son’s senior year. I will challenge myself to remain present and fully embrace this phase, while it is happening. And because I am all too aware of how fleeting the time is that he still has at home with us.
I will try my best to avoid talking with him about college ad nauseam. I know I will find myself tempted to say things like, “Clean up your room – you’ll be living with a roommate next year!” Instead I will smile and simply say, “I love you.” As deadlines approach, I will want to ask (nag?) if he’s written essays and completed forms. Instead, I will try to smile and merely remind him that I am proud of all his efforts.
I will go to as many games, plays, concerts and school activities as I can manage. Not just the ones my kid is involved in, but those of his friends and our neighbors. I will watch them be teammates for one last season and enjoy their camaraderie, whether they win or lose, excel or disappoint.
I will take pictures of the mundane. Their yearbook captures all the big moments, the formal and staged shots of my son and all his fellow classmates. I will attempt to record the ordinary moments whenever possible. My boy and his dog lying on the floor. Friends playing Frisbee in the backyard.
I will thank people now, and not allow myself to think I’ll have the time to do it properly at the end of the school year. I will express gratitude throughout the year to the numerous people who have helped him get this far – teachers, coaches, other parents, and my kid’s friends. They have all played a huge part in my son’s growth and small successes thus far.
I will celebrate and revel in the routine of our days still together – the hastily prepared dinners and the nights my son falls asleep with his head up against a stack of Chemistry notecards.
I will not treat his senior year of high school as the mossy stepping stone we try to quickly cross over to reach the other bank of the stream. College will be patiently waiting on the other side.