We walked down the sidewalk toward the elementary school for open house. In just a few days, my firstborn was starting kindergarten and the excitement was palpable. He was ready. I was ready. (Especially with two younger siblings at home!)
We moved full-steam ahead when we heard a shout from behind us. Dragging along due to a bursting-at-the-seams backpack full of his crayons, pencils, PE shoes and tissues, I heard, “Wait up, everybody. The kindergartener is falling behind!”
I can still picture his bright eyes, full smile, eager face, buzz haircut. In my mind I see it perfectly and it feels like yesterday. It was fall of 2010 and the year 2023 felt like the far-off future of science fiction movies.
Yet, in just a few short days, that once kindergartner will don a cap and gown, walk across a stage, and receive his high school diploma as part of the Class of 2023.
It’s not that I wish I could go back. Once again, he’s ready. I’m ready, too. I’m excited for the next chapter in his life and to watch him launch into the big wide world.
Commencement means “to start or begin” and I know the best is yet to come.
I just can’t get over how fast it all went.
When I was a young mom with littles at home, well-meaning older moms would smile wistfully at me in Target and implore me to soak up every moment because the time would fly by. I smiled back, knowing they meant well, but inside I thought, “Ha! You liar.” Each day during those years of tying shoes, wiping bottoms, cleaning up messes, and playing another game of Candyland felt like they lasted a week. The endless monotony and hands-on parenting of littles wore me down.
Things picked up when my son entered school. The school day was a highlight for all of us. A break in routine, filled with learning, friends, lunch, and recess for him, and time to work from home and have adult conversations for me.
The years of youth sports are a complete and total blur. Packing up the car for a weekend of games. Cheering my head off for 10 year-olds, celebrating the thrill of victory while giving lots of hugs in th agony of defeat. It was a chapter of making friends with other families and it’s those families who remain my closest adult friends to this day. No one ever told me my kids and their friends would result in a community.
High school ushered in challenging classes, new opportunities, and….driving. There’s nothing that brings a mama to her knees in prayer like watching her child drive off in an actual, full-sized, functioning automobile on their own for the first time. Jesus, take the wheel! And then, after about a week, it all rubs off and you realize you’ve been given the gift of time. While you miss talks in the car after practice, you aren’t driving carpools filled with sweaty boys and waiting in late-night parking lots for the bus to return.
The past four years also gave me a front-row seat to watching my adolescent son mature into an adult right before my eyes. My once rule-challenging, independence-exerting, self-absorbed freshman is now a smart, thoughtful, and responsible senior. He’s kind to his siblings and friends and quick to thank those who help him on a daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong. There was the butting of heads, wrestling for control, and plenty of ultimatums to get there. And then I realized the whole point of my role as a mom was to prepare him not to need me. If I’m doing it right, I’m year-by-year working myself out of a job.
And that’s tough to swallow.
Back when my kids needed me for every single thing all of the time, I couldn’t wait for this day. But now that it’s here? I have mixed feelings.
My husband and I joke we’re doing an experiment in grief this senior year. He cried at the last-first football game and at senior night and the last-last football game. And then again at the last-first basketball game and…well, you get the picture.
Me? Rarely a tear shed. Sure, there have been moments of nostalgia (cue kindergartener weighed down by the backpack flashbacks), but mostly I’ve just been happy. These all feel like milestones to celebrate and I’m proud of all he’s accomplished.
Will I miss Friday night lights with our parent-friends cheering on our sons? Oh, yes, 100%. But it’s been an incredible ride with absolutely zero regrets, so I look forward to closing this chapter and seeing what’s next for him and for us. (Although if I end up in a pile of tears at graduation, we’ll know my husband was right and I should have grieved a little bit all the way through.)
The sadness I have isn’t about graduation and his impending departure for college. Instead, I’m sad our family is changing. I’m sad he won’t be rummaging through the refrigerator late at night looking for something to eat or sitting down the row from me at church.
There will be less laundry to fold and groceries to put away. Fewer shoes at the door and one less plate set at the table. There will be a gap in the daily life of our family of five and it’s a transition I’m dreading. And that is what makes me sad.
But, mostly I am proud.
Proud of what he’s accomplished – yes. He’s had a great high school career filled with lots of learning and fun experiences. But I’m even more proud of who he is. Confident, capable and ready to conquer the world – just like that kindergartener was 13 years ago.
Christine Meggison is a speaker and author of the book, “Image is Everything.” She’s spent the past twenty-five years ministering to high school and college students, young adults, and women.
Christine lives in Grimes, Iowa, is married to husband Michael, and is the “World’s Okay-est Mom” to three kids. In her free time, she likes reading fiction, lunch dates with friends, and binge-watching tv. You can learn more about Christine, read her blog posts, and check out her Straight From The Heart(land) Podcast at christinemeggison.com.