Homecoming, snake dances, bonfires, senior prom, senior skip day. Getting out early, just one more college visit, and last but not least graduation. All the events that make up a senior year. Twenty-some years later I still remember my senior year vividly. Finally, we were at the precipice of life, or so we thought. And now our kids are standing ready to jump.
The class of 2020 got blindsided for sure, but they managed. They still had graduations mostly virtually, even prom later in the summer for many. I’m thankful for the class of 2020; they paved the path we are warily walking on now. The class of 2021 is still reeling from and overcoming what this pandemic has handed them. Some have been back in school all year, some had hybrid schooling, and some still totally virtual. Caps and gowns were ordered in hopes of our kids wearing them at least somewhere and yearbooks are going to look very different.
Being a member of team 2021 has had many challenges.
Many of our kids played sports in front of empty stadiums and courts. There were no student sections, no pep band and marching bands only played at home games if any at all. In a world of ever changing precautions they have persevered. We are still waiting to see if graduation will be in person or virtual, or even socially distanced. It’s been hard, so hard to put our expectations of what we thought it would look like aside.
A Year we never expected.
As the mom of a soon to graduate senior, I have watched the struggle and frustration of the last year. The epic outbursts of emotion, trying to help my child navigate this new world and expectations we never saw coming. This last year changed our graduates in ways we may not have even considered and made them grow up more than we even realized. For one, they learned to mourn. mourn choices, lost advantages and the gradual end of childhood in a world none of us recognize. I asked quite a few of them and they all said they felt that this ambivalent year was stolen. Many feel that they just became adults because they had to. Nothing looked like they had dreamed about. College visits were cancelled, many networked with famly friends to figure out what path they wanted to take. As things started to open up they added college classes to their schedules. They waited with baited breath to see if they would have proms, would they walk across a stage with their friends in front of beloved family? For many of them they are still waiting to have these questions answered.
So how can we help them navigate this final hurdle?
First, we can listen. Listen to their hopes, fears and dreams. Give them space to have all the feelings and give them a safe ear to voice them without judgement.
Next, ask them what they want. Do they want all the pomp and circumstance or would they like something quiet and intimate with close friends and family.
Connect with other team 2021 parents and find ways to celebrate this huge accomplishment. Put up all the signs, do graduation parades, make a fun Youtube video with pictures and fun shout outs, another mom said she adopted a few seniors last year and did little care packages for them and she really wanted to do that again. Get creative.
Take a moment and cry, regardless if this is your first graduate or your last. Senior year comes with a lot of emotions. Take time to acknowledge them, it is a huge year full of firsts and lasts, you both need time to process and mourn this life transition. Honor those big emotions, you both have walked a long road together.
Take ALL the pictures, I promise you won’t regret it. Despite all the eye rolls (I know I’ve gotten a few) these are moments neither of you want to forget.
Don’t be surprised by how grown up your kiddo is, they have handled this unprecidented year bravely so celebrate them in all the ways. Give them space and grace and all the reassurance they need. Remember parenting doesn’t end with this last milestone. This is just a jumping off point to even greater adventures and inside jokes that only you and your child will share.
Lastly, I want to say to the class of 2021
Congratulations. We see you, we hear you, we honor your courage and we can’t wait to see what you do to change the world. You faced adversity and a wildly changing world with a brave face. There will never be another class like yours.
In the words of Rascal Flats:
All the ones who love you, in the place you left
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
And always give more than you take
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too”
A huge thank you to my daughter Bella, and my bonus daughter’s Victoria and Tash for sharing your feelings and experiences with me this last year. I enjoyed being both cheerleader and sounding board for you. I am so unbelievably proud of the incredible women you have grown into.