To My Two Sons As You Graduate: Here’s What I’ve Watched You Learn

In an embarrassment of riches, I have two sons graduating this year, one from college and one from high school. And as graduation season beckons, despite my effort to keep my emotions in check, I’m being swept up in the kind of emotion that makes you feel like someone is physically holding your heart and squeezing it.

The actual graduation ceremony leaves me cold but the milestone itself chokes me up. So, what are my hopes for each of my two new graduates, actually for all of our shiny new graduates?

I Remember When My Son Was A Baby

When you were an infant, the nurse brought you to me. I took the swaddled bundle she offered and cradled it gently to my chest, inhaling deeply and filling my senses with the new baby scent (which is kind of like a new car smell, but different).

How many times had this nurse watched a scene like this play out, a new baby and a new mommy feeling each other out, learning each other. She smiled benevolently and said, “There’s a whole person in there.”

Of course, I thought. Of course, you were a whole person. What kind of silly comment was that? But what she said was truer in more ways than I could understand at that moment.

There in that 7 pound bundle was your wit, your kindness, your smile, your food preferences, and your individuality. It wasn’t just that you would grow physically, you would become. You would become you, we would become us, our family would become five lives deeply and forever intertwined, with its own narratives, real and apocryphal.

And what that nurse said resonates deeply now in another way, a way that was true then and is true now. Inside of you there is a wellspring that you will tap into as life unfolds.

All the answers lie within.

When I graduated from college, I could not have envisioned the world of today, just as none of us can foresee what the future will bring. And change is exciting but also unnerving and stress-inducing.

Here’s What My Sons Have Learned

The cold hard facts you learned in school will change. History will be added to and old history will be given a new spin. Ideas once thought to be true will be proven false and then true and then false again.

But you have learned how to learn, to analyze and to think critically. Let that be your beacon.

The conventions of speech, writing and grammar will change. Imagine how surprising it was for those of us who grew up with typewriters to accept that there is now only one space after a period. Old phrases will fade, new ones will emerge.

But you have learned to move people with your words. Let that be your beacon.

You have been taught to solve problems, but the equations will change.

But you have the nimbleness of mind to apply old rules to new equations or new rules to old equations. Let that be your beacon.

You will move on, from old friends to new, from familiar environs to less familiar ones. You will leave the comfort of the old to the challenge of the new

But you have learned to build relationships and communities. You understand that building often means showing up day after day, month after month, year after year. Let that be your beacon.

I guess what I’m saying is that you’ve got this. You already have everything you need and if you hold fast to that inner immutable core, the winds of change that swirl around you won’t be so scary.

“There’s a whole person in there.”

True then and certainly true now.

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About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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