People have been asking me a lot lately if I'm doing okay, now that my youngest son is about to graduate from high school. "Are you sad?" they'll probe, with a sympathetic look, or "How are you holding up?" They've been making me feel a tad guilty, as if I'm a cold fish or something; because for some reason, I've been surprisingly calm about the whole thing, as if God has prepared me for this huge change that is about to take place. I don't really like change--which is tough, because things are always changing. But I've been thinking that there's a time for everything, and it seems like the time is ripe now for moving on to the next phase of life. After all, I have a married son, I'm about to become a grandmother, and three of my grown sons have moved to faraway places. My husband and I have talked about this quite a bit, about how we're sort of looking forward to the incredible freedom we'll have to hit the road whenever we feel like it to visit all of our far-flung offpsring (which will soon include my youngest, actually, since he'll be at a college about 17 hours from home).
I mean, we've been at this school business a long, long time. Our oldest son started kindergarten in September of 1989, and our youngest will finish high school in June of 2011. That means we've had kids in school for 22 years (now I feel old!); it's an era that has spanned four decades--the 1980's, 1990's, 2000's, and 2010's. When you think of it that way, it seems like eons. That's a lot of permission slips, progress reports, parent-teacher nights, and brown bag lunches! Yes, I get nostalgic when I look back on all the wonderful things that have happened during these 20-plus years; but there are some things about having kids in school that I won't miss at all, and it's that aspect that I've been focusing on lately. So incredibly, I've been feeling mellow, peaceful, and as if--for once--I might be able to get through a bittersweet ending to a really great time in my husband's and my life without a lot of crying.
Oh, how naive I was!
Yesterday, I was out running errands in my big red van, thinking deep thoughts (as I often do while driving by myself--when I'm not listening to Rush Limbaugh or singing, poorly, at the top of my lungs). Out of nowhere, it hit me: it was the last day of classes for my baby, the last official day of school. I was thunderstruck, and sitting there in my van, the tears began to flow.
The actual schoolwork is over for son #5. Yesterday, he said his good-byes to the underclassmen he won't see in the hallways anymore. Today, he's on a senior field trip to an amusement park; next week is packed with fun senior week activities, followed by a couple of days of graduation practice and early releases; and finally, the graduation ceremony will take place over the weekend. What I'd like to know is this: how in the world did we get here?!
The boy who I thought I'd have with me forever is getting ready to leave the nest, and I don't know how I'm going to handle that. I don't think I'm going to be a rock after all. This child is the one who came along after a big break (there are only four years and three months between sons #1 and #4; between #4 and this one, there are five years). He was the greatest surprise we ever got, the icing on the cake, the person who completed our family. He's the one my husband and I had the privilege and pleasure of homeschooling from 4th through 8th grade. And now, his boyhood school days are coming to an end. It's the end of an era not only for him, but for his parents as well.
On the one hand, I feel exceptionally lucky that my husband and I both cherished the time we had with our boys and appreciated how wonderful our life was when they were growing up; and on the other hand, I feel hoodwinked and disbelieving, and I find myself asking that age-old question that all parents of grown children ask: "Where did the time go?"
What happened to frightened little boys diving into bed with us during thunderstorms? When was the last time one of them picked dandelions for me, or climbed into my lap? Or needed help learning his spelling words? When did they all grow taller than their father? Get deep voices? Learn to drive? And how can it be that my baby boy will be leaving us in a few short months?
Okay, enough wallowing. I've got to remind myself to focus on the sweet rather than the bitter--to realize that just as my son's upcoming commencement marks a new beginning for him, it's a new beginning for my husband and me, too. I'll be all right. I will! But I'm going to need a lot of help from God. And a lot of tissues.