gratitude-a-thon day 411: dear parents, i have some advice for you

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Jake last year, graduating.

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Jake at the end of the semester, having survived a three month pledge to become a frat boy.

Dear parents of about to be high school graduates:

I have a little advice for you.

I was you last year on this day. It was sunny and beautiful just like it is today. You probably have a range of complex emotions, some which may even be associated with the fact that you have family here for the blessed event and can’t stand them. But go forth my friends, this day is a big deal. On to my advice.

1. If you’re going to Brookline’s ceremony, bring sunscreen, a hat, a full box of tissues, water, and if you can swing it, an air conditioner. Also if you’re shooting in actual film, bring more than you think you need, because although you know you’ll take a lot of pictures, you will take more than that.

2. Today is the beginning of the change. Yes, we women go through the change in our 50’s, but this is the late adolescent change, and you should be prepared. No matter how lovely, sweet and adorable your kid is, they’re just about to board the “summer of detachment” bus. This bus travels through the summer months trying to drive away from you. It acts up and acts out, but this is just in preparation to drive to its new destination. This is normal. This does not mean your kid doesn’t love you. It’s just the opposite, your kid loves you so much, it’s hard for him/her to leave you, but they have to, on account of it’s part of life. And they’re trying to figure out a way to do it. Hence the bus. Hang in there, they’ll be back soon enough.

3. Expect to be weepy and happy and crazy and mad a lot this summer, as you too, try and figure out this next stage and what it means for your family. If this is the last kid to fly the coop, leaving the nest empty, you have a whole new world ahead of you. This takes some getting used to, but just remember, you have a whole bunch of new found freedom. I suggest swearing a lot and walking around the house naked, you know things you couldn’t do when your kids were in the house. Go out all night. Leave the kitchen dirty. Eat cereal for dinner. Celebrate the stuff you can do now. You’ll miss having your kids in the house, but have fun with in your new gig, there’s a lot to enjoy. If you still have kids at home, this is a whole other story. It will take some time to adjust to the new family dynamic. It took us several months, but it was great once we did, and it’s allowed us  to get to know our daughter in a whole new way.

4. On that college drop off. It’s sad. No way around it. That little baby, that you’ve known all your life, who’s endless and disgustingly smelly diapers you have changed, is about to take his/her first step to independence. You’ll be fragile and excited. This is what you’ve been preparing them for. You done good, mom and dad. Let yourself cry.

5. They will be back. Physically and emotionally. And they will be different, as their college experience will have changed them. Jake is not the same as he was when he left, because he learned a lot and while things are going well this summer, they are different. In a good way. But I will never quite get over the massive and constant transitions we parents have to experience with our kids. But you only have to look to this to know you will survive, because the truth is, you have done this before, in fact, you’ve done it all their lives. You watched a tiny baby who could do nothing but cry, drink and dirty diapers turn into a walker, talker, menace to a clean house. You have gone through the transition of leaving them at pre-school, with guilt in your heart. You have watched them master each grade, sport, mean friends and nice ones. You’ve had the “changing body talk”, the “sex talk”, the “don’t do drugs talk”. You have seen them excel, find themselves a little at a time, fall in love, navigate the complicated and wonderful big world. You’ve been going with the flow and adjusting to their constantly changing little selves since they were born. And you did it. This is no different. They just aren’t in your house while they’re doing it, and you are out a whole bunch of money. But my point is, that you will survive, flourish even. I promise. I did. Happy graduation day. Don’t forget those tissues.