Saturday, June 22, 2013

Caps and Gowns and Bygones

'Tis the season. 

No, not that one. 'Tis the season when proud mamas and papas post beaming photos of their offspring wearing caps and gowns and goofy grins. 


I have mixed feelings about it.

This year, our family attended the college graduation of the son of my closest friend from my own college days. (Got all that?) Then, I attended a high school graduation party for another dear friend's son. And, my daughter, who rides her horse with girls slightly older, attended some ceremonies and parties as well.

We have seen the future. And, I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, we sat through the long and, unfortunately, freezing cold (June in New England) ceremony a few weeks ago. I was so envious, I could hardly breathe. This wonderful young man, who I have known since birth (hey, technically, I hung out with him before he even arrived) is my friend's second of three to graduate from a prestigious school. As his sort-of-almost-aunt, I was honored to be part of the celebration; we were all so proud of him. But, I couldn't help but covet my girlfriend's position just a little. Not because of his accomplishments (which were great; he starts med school next month), but because he was safely through the system. 

Heck, we're struggling to make it through freshman year in one piece! Finals and projects and essays ... oh my!

I felt the same way at the high school graduation party I attended a couple of weeks later. Here was another young man I had known all his life. In fact, in decorating for the party, his mom had put out dozens of snapshots, chronicling his childhood and high school years. One of the earliest was of his first Halloween when she and I made a Superbaby costume for him. The cape was a bright red hand towel with the familiar S logo applied in felt. Who knew he'd grow up so soon. Big and strong and handsome and brave enough to save the world — or, at least, Canada, where he'll be studying marine biology.

Both of my girlfriends could look at their sons and say to themselves: "I done good." I jump ahead three (and then four more) years, and I imagine what it will be like to see my daughter in her caps and gowns, and know that we got through it all together. Just thinking about it makes me teary. When the days finally arrive, I'll be a mess. Happy and proud, but a mess nonetheless. (Those two milestones, four years apart, can be my last chances to publicly humiliate my daughter.)

On the other hand, I look forward with dread. As much as I envy my friends' happiness right now, I pity them for what must surely feel like a huge loss. I know your baby is always your baby, but graduations are hard to argue with. Your baby is suddenly your grownup baby, and the passing of time is nothing if not bittersweet. Even if they come home again (as many do these days), it will never be the same.

Despite the late nights, the endless drama, the everyday aggravation that comes with mothering a teenage girl, I know I'm not ready to trade it in for a diploma and an empty nest. So not ready. It's hard to enjoy every minute when many of those minutes are filled with activity and stress (and sometimes, let's face it, downright angst). But graduation season reminds me that it all goes by way too fast.

So, "Congratulations, Graduates!" I knew you when. What wonderful accomplishments — yours and your parents'. 

But, I think I'll enjoy my undergraduate for a few more years while I can. 

Now, if we can just get through finals ...

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