So many friends are walking through the litany of the lasts.
The last game.
The last final.
The last concert.
The last time you’ll send your child off to high school. The last time you are the mother of a high school student.
And finally, the graduation.
I feel the wrench, the tug, the feeling of tearing apart all that the family has built. The scaffolding around milestones and markers splintering as it smashes apart.
I want to say “I know, I know, I felt it, too.” And I did. I felt called to be a mother the way some feel called to climb mountains or heal broken bodies. It was all I wanted, who I was and all I knew myself to be, or at least that was how it felt.
The thought of that child stepping out to make their way, which of course has been the path they were on from the first breath, first step, first word, first everything, feels like stepping off a cliff. You’re happy for them, exhilarated with the knowledge that obstacles have been beaten down or maybe sidestepped. Troubles navigated. This is what you wanted; a child who was ready for the next thing, whatever that might be.
But oh God, it’s so hard.
My youngest son comes home from his first year away this week. I have survived this three times over. For me it was different each time; different people, different scenarios they headed off to, different levels of leaving; some thousands of miles away, some closer, some staunchly proclaiming they were not coming home often, some wishing they could just stay but knowing they had to go.
We not only survived. We thrived. We seek time together now, I think, not because they feel obligated but because it feeds us all to be together, whether it’s weekly video chat or the few times a year we can all be physically in the same space. The inside jokes come out, the family roles are tried on, adjusted, discarded, or embraced. We notice that we are connected in bigger ways than any of us, even me, ever expected.
May all those who are reaching a toe over the cliff of the last of the lasts and the first of the firsts know to hang on. Be patient. Stay connected even if that means on the terms set by your offspring for now.
Hold them with great respect, they have worked so hard to grow up and while there is more growing up to do (for all of us, in truth) celebrate this one for now. Go see fireworks and drive-in movies together this summer. Spring for a week at a beach house, or a camping extravaganza. Hold them close and then LET GO. It’s going to be a lovely ride, worth every bump along the way.