Four years ago, I was lamenting to anyone who would listen about how it felt like it was just yesterday that I was dropping my son off at preschool, making cupcakes for his class birthday celebration and sending him off to his first sleepover. As his high school graduation approached, I was filled with a mix of emotions—proud of his accomplishments, happy to see him start a new chapter and a little sad that he was doing it without me by his side on a daily basis.
Fast forward four more years and here I am again. College graduation is looming and I find myself lamenting in a whole different way. Back then my feelings were more defined and easier to deal with. We had visited his future college on a few occasions, so I had a clear picture of what his day-to-day life would entail. Sure, I wouldn’t be there for his daily rituals, but at least I knew where he was eating, sleeping and spending most of his time. That was a big security blanket for me and I wrapped myself up tightly in it.
My feelings now are almost indescribable. I am still proud of his even bigger accomplishments. I am still happy that he is on to an even bigger adventure. The sadness, however, is a little more prevalent because of the unknown factor. That pesky feeling of not being able to know what the future brings.
Like many of his classmates, my son is unsure of what he is doing after graduation. He is still exploring his options, still thinking about his next move. There is talk of everything from traveling abroad to moving to the big city. I approach each new plan with an outward excitement and an internal trepidation.
Not unlike how many of us old timers used to walk uphill to school both ways, I feel like when I graduated from college, most people had a plan in place for post-graduation. I may be “misremembering” that aspect, but I feel like it was pretty cut and dried. Get recruited on campus, graduate, buy an Ikea couch and go to work. It was pretty much lather, rinse and repeat for everyone I knew of in my class. Times have changed on that front it seems and kids these days have a different way of moving forward. Not wrong, mind you, just different.
There is a clear balance of trying to understand what he wants to do while at the same time helping him to be realistic about what that means from a “real world” perspective. That balance is hard to come by and I find myself interjecting my thoughts a little too often only to be met with silence on the other end of the phone line. The anxiety is high on both our parts and while I continually strive to alleviate his, I am quietly dealing with my own. Unlike four years ago, I don’t know where he will be living, what he will be eating or what his daily life will be like. Even he doesn’t have a clear picture of that. There is no safety net for me on this next chapter. My security blanket feels a little worn and frayed.
The struggle is real as these crazy kids say and I am working on figuring it all out in my own way. Sometimes that means crying during Apple commercials and sometimes it means eating a whole sleeve of Pringles. Most of the time, however, it equates to me trying to see all of the positive things the unknown can present. I met my husband when I least expected it. Our third child was not really planned and she’s pretty okay in my book. A hair straightening mishap resulted in a quick fix haircut that I’ve kept for years now. There’s a lot of good that can happen when you aren’t looking.
Things worked out for me and I have to let the future unfold for my son. Like me, he will experience hardships and he will deal with them in his own way. His future is uncertain but that can mean that great things lie ahead for him. I can still bake those birthday cupcakes and inquire about other types of sleepovers. I can still be present for all that his future holds.
I am excited to put plans in place for all of the college graduation celebrations. I am going to make those hotel reservations and plan a big family party. I will order the cake and buy the balloons.
But first let me read Love You Forever one more time.
Patty Walsh has worked in the public relations industry for over 25 years. She lives in Maine with her husband, three kids and everything that goes along with it, including her ungroomed dog and dirty laundry.