For some crazy reason the following thoughts never occurred to me until it came time to watch my own daughter graduate from high School. Up until today, I saw High school seniors as independent beings – ready to be adults, without so much as a nod to the parents standing there in the background. In my mind, those high school seniors were done being raised and were fully formed adults just waiting it out until the official ceremony that would send them out on their own.
Admittedly, my Ignorance was bliss
Oh how everything has changed. This is my year to be the parent in the background….and it’s a whole lot different than I ever thought it would be, and I was not prepared for this.
As we make preparations for this milestone in our daughter’s life, I am faced with one simple truth. Graduation is NOT all about the graduate. It is a delicate tangled mess of emotions, memories, and stories of her life. It is her story, no doubt, but it is also ours. We put pen to paper the day she was born and day by day we filled the pages of her life. Graduation is not about her writing her own story now, it is about passing the pen.
And suddenly, here we are. Cap and Gown has been purchased and picked up. Senior photos are long done, and party invites have already been mailed. My husband and I pour over every detail of the celebration that we will host; making lists of people to invite, decorations to hang, and food to make; and ticking one thing after another off of that list. The hardest part of that is perusing old photographs. Photo after photo, our little girl grows up right before our eyes. Not that we didn’t see it coming, but there is something about seeing a life progress in a matter of a few photo flips. We carefully select which photos to display, which photos will best tell our guests the story of her life. With each photo flip – every memory captured in ink – I started seeing something else. I saw US.
We are in every photo smiling right along side of her. Even when we aren’t visibly present in the photo, we are still there. We are there in everything she has ever done. The way she smiles. The way she scowls. The things she thinks are funny, and the ease of which she breaks out into belly laughs. There we are. Her eyes. Her hair. Her clothing. There we are. From the baby photos, to the toddler years, to the photo of her graduating from preschool next to the photo of her on her first day of kindergarten….we are there.
Celebrating graduation has taken an unexpected emotional turn this year. As we prepare to celebrate HER…..we prepare to slip quietly into the background, taking our new place in her life. We give each other a slight smile through teary eyes….and we whisper “we did it”. We celebrate us. Our story. Our struggles. Our successes. Our journey. Our graduate.
The next time you attend a graduation party, see a graduate, or know someone who has a child who is graduating. Congratulate them, it is (after all) quite an accomplishment. Tell them how proud you are of them and wish them luck on their new life adventures.
Then….look just past them to the background where their parents are inevitably standing. Go hug them and say “You did it.”