The last few years have involved a few relatively major changes in my life. James and I have both hit the big 4-0, we graduated our oldest and sent him off the university, we celebrated 20 years of marriage, we both began a relatively intense process of deconstructing our faith, we opted to leave a church we have both been a part of since our early teen years, and we got a dog. That last one doesn’t register high on some people’s “major change” list but it certainly does mine!
Interestingly enough, I really didn’t think that any of these things, individually would be life-altering but having them all happen in the span of 18 months really threw me for a loop. The two most impactful experiences were definitely helping Sam navigate his way through his final year of high school and beginning to exam my faith from a different perspective. I think the latter kind of requires a post (or 100) of its own but reflecting on Sam’s grade 12 year is a bit more manageable in one go.
The Beginning of the End
Looking back, the process for graduation really does begin so much earlier than grade 12 with simple things like extending curfews, giving more responsibility at home, finding first jobs, etc. However, these things didn’t quite prepare me for both the tangible, practical chaos or the emotional chaos that comes with that final year. For those of you who know Sam, you understand that he is a solid kid. He’s got a passion for sport that is hard to match, he works so hard and never gives up. Despite sometimes feeling overwhelmed by classes, he gives his best and usually comes out relatively unscathed. Grade 12 was no different for him. He balanced classes with football season, then basketball season, and finally rugby season. All three seasons ending with provincial trips and culminated with an opportunity to play university football. Along the way we had some tough conversations about what would be best for him. I’ve had this conversation with some good friends about the reality of letting your kids make decisions that will impact their future and how difficult it is to truly step back and let them move forward into this unknown domain of adulthood.
I think we all remember the feeling of turning 18 or 19 and feeling absolutely confident that we were capable of making good decisions and no longer wanting the input of our parents. I mean, I remember that feeling… Looking back, I have to give kudos to my parents for their ability to step back and take their hands off trusting that all will be well. I thought because of the great example I had and all the mental preparation I’d done that the next step of releasing my oldest into adulthood would be easy. Boy was I wrong.
I wasn’t prepared for his last high school football game, I wasn’t prepared for his grad lock-in, I wasn’t prepared for his last high school basketball game or taking him for a prom suit fitting or receiving MVP at his last high school rugby game. I definitely wasn’t prepared to watch him march through the gym, all handsome, for prom night. I was probably the least prepared to see him cross the stage and receive his diploma for graduation and then hug him close in his cap and gown as he grinned from ear to ear at having finally accomplished this milestone.
When all that was said and done, I felt certain that the emotions would settle but I wasn’t prepared to leave him at his dorm, drive away and have no way of knowing if he would be in that room every night, safely tucked away for a good night’s sleep, fully fed, happy, socially connected and ready to take on the world with the support of …?
Obviously he’s fine, he’s GREAT in fact and yes he is all those things that we hope for him but I don’t get to know as much as I did when he lived out the joys and challenges of life right under my nose. I have to be okay with hearing a fraction of what I used to and trusting that when he needs us, he knows where to find us.
I’m thankful that he still loves to come home, I’m hopeful that all my children will still love to come for a time until they fully settle into their own homes one day. That will likely bring an entirely new gamut of emotions which I hope I’ll be ready to face. The landscape of parenting is changing and I’m trying my hardest to enjoy all that comes with it.