This past week I had the opportunity to have a special conversation with a mom of one of our senior girls. I had the conversation while I was visiting at my childhood home and as we talked about some of the emotions and conversations and words that had been exchanged between parents and the soon-to-be-grad, I couldn’t help but remember some of those words come from my own mouth within the walls of the house I was sitting in. As I continued to listen and share with my friend over the phone, I remembered some key things about how I perceived those pre-graduation weeks. I had the unique privilege of talking this through with my mom as an adult and I think what we reflected on could be helpful to some moms that are preparing to let their little girl graduate from High School in the next couple of weeks.
Priorities are in the eye of the beholder. Remember that while you are taking in all the days of their life and trying to soak up the remaining moments you have with them, that they are not fully grasping the big picture like you are. There are so many decisions, last moments, celebrations, and school projects that they are experiencing sensory overload. For my mother and I, we reflected on what was priority for me and what was priority for her in those last few months before I left for college.
For the mother: She wanted to make sure she covered the basics of life and more so she tried to cleverly “invite” me into some projects that she thought I needed to learn. For example, usually during the 5 o’clock hour if I was at home—I used that time to “chillax”. My mom recognized this need in me over the years and would let me unwind by just vedging in front of the tv until dinner was ready. However, as I neared Graduation day, I found that she “interrupted” this time with sentences like, “Hey Amy-Jo, can you come here for a second. I want you to help me with this ______(insert project).” I didn’t see what she was really doing. She was rushing to make sure that I got as many opportunities to learn things for the “real world” as she could cram into those days. She never said this was what she was doing, so it was just irritating to me at times. I didn’t know that sometimes she was feeling like she was failing me by not teaching me how to do some tasks like making mashed potatoes from scratch.
For the daughter: priorities were to have closure with my friends and family—but mostly friends. In fact it didn’t fully hit me that I would be leaving home (mom and dad) and the comforts/amenities/ familiarities that this home had provided for 18 years. It didn’t hit until I was on a mission trip in The Virgin Islands on the night before we left to come home. My summer was just about to end, and I knew things were never going to be the same. I wept on the floor of that bathroom in my hotel room until about 2am. I wept again the next day when I found my old beatup high school car had gotten a sun-roof installed because my dad wanted to make sure there was enough ventilation for me as I drove to college. Emotions were roller coasters for me those weeks before graduation and leaving for college. Sometimes they ranged from anger at my parents not realizing how independent and grown-up I was. Then quickly they would plummet to almost child-like needs.
I couldn’t get enough time with my friends. I think it’s because I wanted to be with people that knew me…knew inside jokes…and were going through the same emotional transformations I was. Because of this need…this pull…I sometimes chose friends over family more than I probably should have. The night I left for college my friends sat on my stairs in my home talking, giggling, and remembering as my mom and I loaded up the car. They stayed until about 3am the morning we left. I was the first to go to college. It was almost like a wake for them.
Priorities are different for the mom and the daughter during this time.
- Mom may focus on “daughter time” and “holding on” as well as trying to train daughter in those last minute skills.
- Daughter is clinging to friends and trying to claim her independence all at the same time as trying to say goodbye to things that she has known her whole life. There is often a whiplash between nostalgia and a need to grow up.
This post has gotten exceedingly longer than I had intended so I will sum it up with some key thoughts for moms and dads that may read this:
Your daughter is not a monster. She will exhibit some unusual emotional outbursts during this time. My mother and I reflected on such a moment this past weekend. I do not remember what prompted my response but I was evidently not happy with my mother. I printed out a computer paper banner complete with cheesy graphics that stated boldly: FREEDOM ON JUNE 9th! (That was graduation day) I stapled it to my ceiling. My mother’s response for this outburst was simply to look at it and say nothing. She never told me to remove it. In fact, that banner remained until after I was married. Then she very quietly pointed to it upon a visit home from seminary and said: ” Do you think we can take this down now?”
I asked her why she responded with letting that outburst happen and not saying anything for so many years. She said—“You pick your battles.” She did later confess that I had no idea how badly that hurt but she knew I was having an outburst that was uncharacteristic of me.
Remember should you meet the wrath of your Senior in a way that seems foreign to you: It’s not you—-it’s just a lot for her to take in. She doesn’t always have words to use for all that is going on in her head and her heart. She’s excited about the future. She’s scared about the future. She’s grieving the passing of her high school experience. She’s ready for the passing of her high school experience. She’s contemplated big decisions like what does she want to do with her life. She also’s contemplating little things like…will she be able to figure out how to drive home from college after you drop her off. She’s worried about her roomate. She’s excited about the new friends she will meet. These are all raging inside of her and sometimes she wants to talk about it and sometimes she wishes she could just hit the pause buttton and make things normal.
What you can do during this time:
- write her notes to remind her you love her. She will probably save these and look at them over and over again as she gets older.
- Send her a text message when you pray for her.
- Have some moments where you don’t talk “grad” stuff. You could declare them “grad-free” nights where you just do something she wants to do without discussing senior topics.
- Encourage her other family members to write some encouraging notes to her as well.
- Pray together over the fears she may be expressing.
- REMEMBER: This is a natural part of this stage. You are not alone…other moms/daughters are experiencing some of the same outbursts and emotional roller coasters.
- Find someone to be YOUR prayer partner during these times. Your heart is too tender to handle this roller coaster alone.
A Prayer for you…
In closing, let me pray for you as I know these days are precious and also painful…
Dear Heavenly Father…growing up is necessary, but growing up is hard. Give these mothers and fathers Your peace and comfort as they continue to walk alongside of their graduate and as they celebrate their accomplishments. Help these parents to know when to say something and when to be still. Guard their hearts as sometimes their daughters may say things in the the moment that they are unable to measure the impact those words will have. Create space for these mothers and daughters to have in the crazy days to come. And most importantly, draw these families closer to each other as they draw closer to You.
I ask this in Your Holy and Precious name…Amen.