The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it’s true. This experience is emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.
Eighteen years later, a parent feels as emotional on high school graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life — maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, high school graduation day catches us off guard.
And then, before you know it, more years zip by and then comes college graduation. This weekend I will attend my daughter’s college graduation. I face it with a strange, difficult-to-explain feeling.
I wonder if other parents feel as I do. I think part of seeing a child graduate high school or college is bewilderment, the feeling that so many years went by in your parenting life and you can’t account for every day of those years.
Part of it is fear, the feeling that you are getting older and entering a new phase in your life, too.
Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for your child.
Part of it is pride, the feeling that you have shaped another human being and guided him or her to this day of accomplishment, a day when your young adult heads to college, or in my daughter’s case, steps out into the real world.
As life events go, a graduation, is pivotal. It marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen or young adult differently. You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level. You can offer advice but the choices are his or hers to make.
A quote on Parents.com from Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, author of No Regret Parenting, sums the emotions up well: The days were long, the years were short, and the time I had with them was then. But I made the time and I took the time.
As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leave home. It’s not easy, but you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are doing much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only life your own life, too, and hope for the best.
As I head into the auditorium this weekend, I will look around the room and see the faces of students with big dreams for how they will contribute to the world, land their perfect job or make an big impact on their chosen profession.
Somehow, I feel as if watching my daughter graduate will be happening in slow motion. But as strange as that is, it also is freeing. The responsibility for making sure she makes her way in the world is now hers.
This weekend when my daughter graduates from college, in many ways, so do I. Realistically, I know I will always be a concerned parent, but now I am a sounding board rather than a hands-on chaperone, permission slip signer, and school supply shopper.
I feel confident there is an interesting path ahead for both of us. When she walks across the stage in her cap and gown, we both are one step closer to taking it.