As I dropped my youngest son off this morning for the last day of his sophomore year in high school I was reminded of the day, two years ago, when I dropped off my oldest son at his high school for the last time before his graduation. Ugh! That was an ugly cry day for me. But, as is often the case in parenting, I survived and moved on to the next tearful/joyous/stressful moment.
So, for all you parents filling my Facebook feed with posts about the difficulty of suffering through a child’s last days of high school or college I thought I would re-share this post, originally published on May 22, 2014, to remind you that these days are not ends but beginnings – it just depends on your perspective.
Today was the last full day of high school for my oldest son. Yesterday was the last Wednesday and tomorrow will be the last time he sets foot in the school as a student.
I’ve been doing this morbid mental list of last moments for months now. Yesterday I even took a photo:
The hardest moment, up until this week, was: this is the last birthday we will celebrate with him at home.
I’ve tried not to think about that one for too long.
I can’t stop myself. It’s such an automatic reaction that, this morning, I found myself thinking: this is the last time he will carry his lunch to high school in this black lunch bag—ever!
It’s an illness.
Obviously, I know that he will return home at some point (to visit, hopefully, not to live) but I know it won’t be the same.
As much as I complain about having to wait up for him on the weekends at least I know where he is at night. I also like sitting around the dinner table almost every night even if the meal takes 45 minutes to prepare and only 10 minutes to consume—at least I know that we have those 10 minutes!
Yes, he will eat meals with us again and I’m sure I will still want to wait up for him when he is back from college (although I guarantee I won’t make it past the first weekend) but today marked the last day that I will drive him to and from school. Those few minutes in the car every morning and every afternoon felt like stolen moments for me. Facing forward in our seats with no pressure to “have a conversation” my son would chatter away about his classes or who did what during the day at school, but once we walked into our house all conversation would stop.
I know that I will never have an opportunity like that again, at least not every day.
And, yet, this is as it should be. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
My son, through his own sadness today, pointed out that the end of high school is just the beginning of his independent life as a college student, a time filled with many firsts for him (many I’m sure that I don’t want to know about). “It’s all about perspective, mom,” he told me.
I’ll give him perspective.
For instance, today’s last lunch in his black lunch bag means that tomorrow will be the first time in nine years that I won’t have to make two lunches every day!
The last time he lives at home will be the first time I won’t have to do his laundry or yell at him to do his own laundry (at least for a few months but, that’s something).
And the last time he eats dinner with us before he leaves for college with be the first time that I don’t have to be annoyed that he has his ear phones on and can’t hear me so I have to text him in the other room to let him know that dinner is ready and I need the table set!
Perspective is a funny thing.
And it works the other way, too. I started thinking about my kids “first” moments—first steps, first words, first day of school. Those moments were also lasts if I shift my point of view. For instance, my first son’s first steps marked the last time I would be able to sit down for any length of time until my kids went to school. Had I known what his walking and eventual running, followed closely by climbing and jumping actually meant for me I may not have been so enthusiastic about taking photos of him walking – I may have taken photos of me lounging on the couch or sitting at the table enjoying a leisurely meal.
It is all about perspective.
More notable, yet unrecorded last moments masquerading as firsts:
My son’s first words = the last time I would able to have an adult conversation without being interrupted by a child’s questions.
His first “big boy” bed = the last time I would sleep in my bed (for eight years!) without a child climbing in at 5:30 am.
His first pair of big boy underwear = the last time I changed his diaper. Now that moment really should have been captured in a photo.
I guess my son was right, although he probably didn’t realize that he was doling out parenting advice. Parenting really is about your point of view. If you try to see things from a different angle it may not be as bad as it seems.