The bittersweet reality of graduation

My son has attended school with roughly the same kids for 11 years, and now he’s nearing his eighth grade graduation. An epoch ago, the same held true for me. I graduated from the same school he is, and then I headed off into the great wide world.

It’s an emotional time. Not for him—at least not that he’s letting on yet—but for me. These last few months, it’s really started to sink in that, in a way…I’m graduating, too.

Next fall, he’ll head off to high school, and while I believe with all my heart that he’s on the verge of an exciting, great new chapter in his life—the chapter that is closing has been really special. Never to be repeated again.

 

 

With my seasoned eyes, I see the special bond he has with his classmates. Most of them have known each other since the age of three. They’ve weathered all kinds of storms together—from friends moving to challenging times for the school to the rampage of puberty. Unlike kids in bigger schools with multiple classes, these kids know each other enough to have their guards down and be silly together. They really know each other.

And never again will the same hold true. Not quite like this. Sure, they will go on to make great friends and forge wonderful bonds with people, but these formative years they’ve shared together are inimitable.

When I watch my son with his friends, I see a group of kids that are genuine and at ease with one another. There is a level of comfort and familiarity between them that is priceless. I am so grateful. And while he may not understand what he has right now, someday he will.

This shared history together doesn’t mean that they have never had their problems. I don’t mean to make it sound like a perfect world. It isn’t. But it is a special one.

 

 

It’s also been a special world for me, too. And this is why I’ve come to realize that my son’s graduation is also mine. You see, I will be leaving one world and heading into another, too.

When my son journeys into the unknown world of high school, I will also be trekking into a strange, new land. Now I not only know all of my son’s friends, but I know their families, too. And I don’t just mean I know their names…I know them. And they know me. We’re there for each other. We help and support one another. We, too, have grown up together in a sense.

But when my son starts high school…I will know practically no one. He will be making new friends and wanting to hang out with them, and…for the first time ever…I will not know these people. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And that is going to be tough. I’m going to have to do a little growing up, and I’m not sure I’m ready.

I know I’m not ready to lose the relationships I’ve made with the parents I’ve come to know and love, either. And while I hope that we stay connected, I’m realistic enough to know that the classic “KIT” written in so many yearbooks doesn’t actually result in “keeping in touch” in quite the same way. Lives will evolve and change, and we will move on. But I will forever cherish them.

Yes, this graduation business is bittersweet stuff. Grateful for what has been one special chapter of life and hopeful for the next, it is a time to reflect on the many things my son and our family have been blessed with during these years.

So now, in these waning days, I can’t help but try to appreciate and store up all of those blessings. I watch the boys on my son’s track team so easily support one another and joke around like the goofballs that they are, and I can’t help but get misty-eyed. They’ve been on so many teams together, and this one is the last. This is the last time they will walk this way together.

We are in the process of so many “lasts.” Yes, yes, I know that this means we are also on the verge of so many firsts, as well, but if we don’t stop to soak up those lasts, we are missing out on their full significance. So while I can, I am doing my best to appreciate this special group of people and let them settle deep into my heart, encouraging my son to do the same. I want to remember it all for what it is: a time of both joy and sadness, hope and loss, and blessing and challenge…for we will not come this way again.

 

All photos are my own or used with permission.
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