PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - The first day of school has become "a thing," as my daughters would say -- an event, a collective effort with a common goal, sort of like Election Day or Memorial Day. But the day takes on a far different meaning for those beginning their senior year in high school.
My daughters' school asked me to speak about just that at a ceremony this weekend, and this is a portion of the result, written at midnight on first-day eve.
With all the focus on students today, this is for us moms and dads:
"At this time, this summer, as the world around us seems to be falling apart, there is something so regular and rhythmic about the start of school, everyone anxious to get back to routine. Yet this year for us will be anything but routine.
We are the parents who recorded every single first for our babies: first teeth, first steps, first friends, first awards, first kiss, first car.
This senior year is the year of lasts.
Monday is the last first day of high school -- just the beginning of the lasts. That doesn't really hit you at first, probably because of the whirlwind of deadlines -- college applications, timelines, resumes, essays, deadlines, last important grades -- then events, parties, prom.
The gut-kick can get lost in the busy drama of planning and doing, but it comes at some point. It may be in the spring when your senior starts telling you it's perfectly fine to be skipping classes, convincing you it's all under control, and suddenly you realize -- it really is -- despite that fact you didn't control it.
That gut-kick may come when the college acceptances start rolling in, and you realize how excited she is or he is to leave you.
Maybe it will come at that hour of the night when you wake up and no minutiae of the day interrupts it all coming to the forefront. You realize that not only is your daughter or son about to embark on a whole new phase of life, but so are you.
They are preparing for giant leap in life. We are preparing for scary change.
Hopefully, you really do like your husband or wife, because for the first time in a few decades, you have a lot more time alone together.
The most important mission you have spent your life working on, raising good people, is as done as it can be. It's not over, but done. And you remember those days when you were the center of your child's universe and wonder what you will be the center of now.
Expect your senior to fluctuate somewhere between adult-like child and child-like adult, sometimes wowing you with deep thinking and awe-inspiring observations, and sometimes making you ask that eternal question, 'And you were thinking what?'
This will likely be the year of contradictions: Letting go and staying well connected; calm understanding that mood swings and outbursts can be from stress and nerves, and resisting the urge to beat said student into submission.
Can we talk a little about the assigned summer reading? I like to read the summer books assigned at school so I can be well-prepared to discuss and delve into it when my daughter comes to me to do that. So far, she's never done that.
This time, it's 'The Age of Miracles' -- just in case there is someone who hasn't finished it, no spoilers here. But if and when you read it, you will see a story told with a sense of nostalgia about 'how things used to be.' It's about a young girl facing cataclysmic events, unsure what the future holds, and so every little common thing that is so familiar that it goes unnoticed suddenly takes on new meaning and importance.
That's how this year of firsts and lasts can be.
I hope you, like I do, find joy and comfort during this year of lasts, knowing you have given our beautiful young people solid roots and sturdy wings, and have confidence that they are ready to fly, perfectly capable and empowered, even if their room is a mess, if they leave homework for the last minute, or spend way too much time posting Vines and Instagrams.
Class of 2015, please stand, all beautiful, smart and cool in your own ways. Turn to your parents right now and thank them for helping you get that way."
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