I’ve known for a while I would write this post. And I’ve found every excuse in the world to avoid writing it. Putting into words the knot in my gut makes it real. Committing the conflicting emotions of pride and melancholy of having a senior in high school to paper (or the internet, as it were) means I cannot pretend this milestone isn’t a challenge for me.
Why is it so hard? Generations of parents have launched their children and survived and I KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE, yet I still feel this heaviness. Is it just the unknown? We’ve passed every other milestone and I love each memory and new experience tremendously. I adore the men my sons are becoming–laughing at inappropriate jokes, arguing politics, researching careers–yet I desperately crave one more night rocking with a sleeping baby on my shoulder.
Today we are on the precipice of senior year. We took C’s senior photos today. As I look over these stunning photos of this handsome (BEARDED) MAN, what I see is a chunky little monkey, waiting to be carried or needing a hug. Will this ever stop? I ask veteran mamas: do you ever really stop seeing them as your babies?
They say our sense of smell is most-closely tied to memory. How lovely if we could simply bottle certain moments of their lives, only to open them for a deep inhale of Johnson’s baby shampoo and Dreft–to capture that moment in that rocking chair for an evening or two as needed. Someone invent that technology, ok?
So we begin a year of LASTS for my firstborn. The last first day. The last football season. The senior banquets, senior trips, prom and graduation. We will find a college, buy a suit, and drink in every moment of this fine young man’s biggest year yet. I will hang on while I also let go, because I know I’ve done everything I can as his mom. He will be ready, even if I am not. And LORD HELP younger brother–smothering ahead. 😉
In the meantime, I will leave you all with a list I gave him on his 16th birthday–I think it holds true today and is everything I want him to remember.
Mom’s Life Rules
- Explore. This is your time to figure out what it is you want to do and who you want to be. I think you’re incredible now, but what will it become in the next phase. Look around, learn, seek knowledge and connection in the world and that path will become clear. Stay curious ALWAYS.
- Stay connected to real people. Technology and all its platforms are incredible tools for seeking knowledge and networks, entertainment and information. But promise you’ll never let it replace human contact. Meet people who are completely different from you and learn their stories. Offer to help. Make lots of friends. Fall in love and get your heart broken. Know that we are always here to help when you do. And it’s important to have a broken heart. It’s harder to recognize the best people if you’ve never given your trust to the wrong person.
- Volunteer. Whether it’s supporting a soup kitchen, raising money to battle cancer, building a home for those in need, or distributing blankets on a cold winter day—give of your time, talents, and money to those less fortunate. You can learn a great deal about strength and resilience from people who face their own struggles. Which leads me to…
- Count your blessings. Always remember that you have so much more in gifts and opportunities than many people. We are no better than anyone else, but every good fortune that befalls you should be followed with a response of gratitude. And have empathy (not just sympathy) for the struggles of others.
- Lead with love, joy, and passion. There is NOTHING worse than settling in a job, a relationship, in your life. Dig deep to discover who you are at your core—what your true passion is, what brings you the greatest joy—and go THERE. If your passion is connection to others, don’t sit at an isolated desk all day. If learning brings you joy, don’t settle for the job that repeats the same things over and over with no growth. If the outdoors brings you peace, don’t sit in an office for a whole career.
- Surround yourself with people who inspire you to always be better and do more than you think you can. Your friends, your colleagues, your spouse, should always encourage greatness in you, not make you feel guilty for your dreams and successes. Always be this person for your brother and I’ll tell him the same for you.
- Be BRAVE. Try new things. Push through scary situations.
- Be SILLY. Dance barefoot in the rain. Wear funny hats. Sing Christmas carols walking through the mall. And ALWAYS make funny faces at babies in strollers.
- Be cautious. Know that there are REAL dangers out there. Regardless of how big and strong you are, the car you are driving is bigger. Mistakes can be made by you and others that can change EVERYTHING FOREVER. Be respectful of rules and the reasons they’re made—to keep you safe.
- Always call your mother. People say pretty awful things to moms of just boys. They tell us we will lose you. Please prove them wrong.
senior photos by Julie Kahlbaugh