This Post: The Long Goodbye: My Child’s High School Senior Year is Hitting Me Hard
Written By: Marybeth Bock
I knew this day would come… I just didn’t know it would come this fast.
I remember when my son was young, it felt as if we had all the time in the world together and here we are – the final months of his senior year of high school. We’re taking his senior portrait pictures, planning a graduation party, and anticipating the start of college in the fall. I promised myself I wouldn’t dwell on the endings, but rather focus on the beginnings, but these emotions are catching me by surprise.
His senior year is like one long goodbye and my heart isn’t ready for this to end.
The last “first day of school” picture outside our front door – my son rolling his eyes the entire time… “Geez, Mom… do we have to do this?” His last homecoming dance looking all handsome and debonnaire and grown up. His last practice, his last football game, his last prom.
Those lasts just keep on coming, each one hitting a little bit harder, forcing me to accept the fact that our world is about to drastically change, and I honestly don’t know how to wrap my head and my heart around it all.
The Long Goodbye: My Child’s High School Senior Year is Hitting Me Hard
Our kids’ senior year is a kaleidoscope of events, big feelings, anticipation, and flashback memories that come at us and our kids HARD.
Everything seems to be in fast motion for our kids… the craziness of college admissions (for kids who aspire to move on to college), the fight to hold their GPA so they don’t blow their chance of a potential scholarship, those late nights studying and squeezing in as many memories with friends as possible.
The reality of how life is about to shift hasn’t hit them yet.
For us, though, we just want life to move slower so we can take it all in, relish in all those lasts, and just stare at our kids a little longer.
We worry a lot, too, because all the college stuff is stressful and time-consuming, and is drawn out over so many agonizing months. We wonder: Where will our son or daughter end up? Will they be happy there? How will we pay for everything? And how will we ever adjust to life when our child leaves the nest and is suddenly missing from our day-to-day lives?
If you find yourself tearing up at the strangest times (and in the strangest places), you’re definitely not alone. I found myself wiping away tears in the cheese section of the grocery store weeks before my daughter left for college, just staring at her favorite Babybel cheese.
But we also feel so much pride at the same time. We’ve seen our kids blossom from shy freshmen into seniors who are confident and seem to be oh-so-ready to leave our nest. We know intimately how hard they’ve struggled and studied, how much friend drama they’ve endured, and how much their world has changed in the past four years. Their maturity blows us away at times and is so inspiring.
And, we might not want to admit it, but we all feel a little scared as well. Because sending your child off into the big, wide world, to “adult” on their own is scary. It just is. It doesn’t matter if your senior is your first child to leave, your only child, or your baby. The feelings of unease and anxiousness are so normal.
We already anticipate that they might feel homesick and awkward as they navigate their new beginning and completely out of place until they find their stride. We just want to wrap our arms around them and wish we could ease their stress by doing it for them. But this time it’s on them… this is a journey they have to make alone.
The intense swirl of emotions can hit us with such an emotional force that at times feels like a physical punch, taking our breath away, and keeping us up at night. Underneath all the excitement and hope for their future is our fragile, mom’s heart that struggles with all the unknowns that will play out over the next several months.
So, How Do You Cope When All These Emotions Hit Us So Hard?
For starters… love on your kids and accept that every feeling you’re having is valid.
If you find yourself crying when your daughter is trying on prom dresses, lean into the bittersweet feelings, and wrap her up in a huge hug. Remember every inch of her smiling face as she glances in the mirror at the beautiful young woman she is.
If you find yourself shouting with joy when your kid hits a home run during the playoffs, be in the moment and take in every sight and sound of the cheering ballpark. Those memories will last a lifetime.
If you feel like weeping with sadness as you watch your son read a college rejection letter or you share in his joy and shout from the mountaintops when he receives an acceptance letter, let the tears out, and let the joy flow.
If you want to silently watch your child sleep in the car after they’ve passed out from an exhausting game or sit with them and marvel at how grown up they look – even though you still see the toddler in them who used to cling to your leg when the world felt too big – go ahead and do it.
Take every opportunity to just BE with your child, even if they seem slightly annoyed with you, have their earbuds in, and are giving you their signature eye roll. Be grateful for every meal. every car ride together, every fleeting moment that presents itself. Appreciate their sense of humor and even how they love to make fun of you.
Go ahead and tell them you’ll be giving extra hugs and kisses and will be super sappy over the next months and to please just roll with it. When you’re overcome with emotion, acknowledge the good and the sad, and know that you are part of a vast community of parents who are feeling all the same sentiments. You are not alone.
Take tons of pictures, write down things you are grateful for, scream your frustration into a pillow if you need to, talk to your partner or a good friend going through the same transition, or sit quietly with a cup of tea as tears stream down your face.
Your child will make it through, you will make it through, and your infinite love will get you through every remaining day of your child’s senior year. Just breathe.
About Marybeth Bock:
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.