The Short Road to Graduation: What I Know About My Son’s Senior Year (8/20/14)

Deja Vu All Over Again

Seven years ago when I enrolled my older son as a freshman in high school, I arrived a bundle of nerves. This week, as I enroll my younger son as a senior, I’m still a basket case—but for very different reasons.

When my older son started his senior year I didn’t have a clue what to expect. Clearly, I knew how the journey would end, but I wasn’t prepared for the potholes along the way.

This time around, as my younger son starts his senior year, I know the terrain and some of the pitfalls to avoid but I also know the road won’t be any easier.

So far my sons’ senior years are off to similar starts. Less than a month after completing their junior years of high school each received letters inviting them to sit for their senior yearbook photograph.

Last week, with my younger son dressed in a collared shirt and coordinating tie, we arrived as instructed for his official senior portrait.

As I stood in the photographer’s studio mulling over portrait packages, I felt a familiar rush of anxiety. I flashed back to my older son’s portrait appointment remembering it initiated the slippery slope toward graduation. My heart hurt knowing in an instant I’ll be sitting teary-eyed in Thalassa Stadium, again.

Returning home from the photo shoot, I recounted to my husband my traumatic afternoon and fear that in the blink of an eye our son will be gone.  My husband responded by blinking his eyes and saying, “He’s still here.” I warned him, one more satirical flicker and he might not see our son pick-up his diploma in June.

I discovered during my older son’s senior year how cruelly the calendar races from September to June. The next ten months kick-off with football games, homecoming events, and themed dances then jumps to midterms and spring break, and finally sprints to senior barbecues, grad night and graduation.

Amid the year-long flurry of fun activities, my younger son will spend his Thanksgiving break completing college applications. Months of anxious waiting will follow while we wait for the decision of an anonymous admissions panel to announce how lucky we are that they’re taking my son from me for four years.

This time around, instead of counting down the days until his departure like I did with my older son, I intend to enjoy the day-to-day high school routine. I pledge to shed some of my black clothing and stop marking the maudlin list of every “last” milestone—his last birthday at home, his last prom, and so forth.

I’m rationalizing by living in the moment I’ll minimize my misery—the denial gene runs like a river through my genetic pool so I stand a great chance of temporarily fooling myself.

I expect as my son’s senior year progresses he’ll begin to push the boundaries of the last three years. He’ll challenge our rules and decisions to taste his impending freedom and independence. This time, I’ll try to loosen the leash and accept it’s good to gain some autonomy under our roof before sending him into unruly student housing.

I know, as the calendar comes to a close, senioritis will strike but I vow to leave the battlefield of “The Great Curfew War” less bloodied than with my older son.

We butted heads as he fought to free himself from my jurisdiction and jump into the world of young adulthood, and I fought letting him go and losing my beloved job as fulltime parent. In retrospect I realize our conflict wasn’t about the neon numbers flashing on the digital clock, but instead the fleeting hours remaining on our household clock.

This time around I’m less naïve, but it’s still difficult enjoying the journey when reaching the destination is dreaded.

Too soon I’ll find myself sitting in Thalassa Stadium watching my younger son cross the stage to receive his high school diploma.

The second time isn’t any easier, but at least this time I know to bring more Kleenex.

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