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 feel 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, graduation day catches us off guard. Tonight, my oldest son, Jake, will walk across the stage and get his high school diploma and while he prepares for the pomp and circumstance with excitement, I face it with a strange, difficult to explain feeling.
I wonder if other parents feel as I do. I think part of it is bewilderment, the feeling that 18 years went by and I can't account for every day of those years. Part of it is fear, the feeling that I am getting older and entering a new phase in my life as my son is entering one in his and I don't know how it will play out. Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for him, which I have learned from benefit of hindsight. Of course, part of it is pride, the feeling that I have shaped another human being and guided him to this day of accomplishment.
From having an older daughter, I know this life event is pivotal. Regardless of whether your son or daughter goes to college, high school graduation marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen differently, You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level.
As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leaves home. It's not easy but you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only sit back and hope for the best.
As I head into the auditorium tonight, I will look around the room and see the faces of little boys who played dodgeball in my backyard, now young men who shave, and drive, and like my son are leaving home to go make their way in the world.
Somehow, I feel as if watching them graduate will be happening in slow motion. I honestly can't see the road ahead for any of us. But as strange as that is, it is also freeing. The responsibility for making sure my son's homework is done, he gets to his activities on time and he gets to bed at a decent hour is behind me. Tonight my son graduates, and in many ways, so do I. There's an interesting path ahead for both of us and tonight we are one step closer to taking it.