As I’m writing, there’s a blue jay building her nest on the branch outside my window. All day long, she’s been flitting around with twigs in a diligent effort to create the perfect home for her babies. It’s poetic that this is my view today. For years, I’ve thrown myself into the demanding task of feathering my nest to build a place of refuge. Yet, here I am, having launched one already, and staring down the task of watching the next one spread his wings. I’ve survived one senior year, and I am about to do it all again. I know what worked well with my firstborn and what I want to do differently for the next one. So, deep breaths, mamas. I have some tips that will ease the crazy, the chaotic, and the often overwhelming.
Be Calendar Ready
Whether you love paper planners or prefer an app, choose a system you will use. From the last day of junior year until the day of college drop-off, you are going to track a lot of dates from various sources. They’ll be dates for yearbook pictures, senior pep rallies, senior field day, prom, hat and gown orders, and so on. The actual graduation date, of course, will be the epicenter of your focus. Start by getting that date to whomever you’d like to invite, especially the out-of-town guests. Aside from senior year dates, there will be important deadlines relating to college applications and scholarships, as well as orientation and activities for incoming college freshmen. Marking a calendar and keeping it handy will help you manage the madness.
Plan with Intention
There will be 10,001 ways to celebrate your child, so get ahead of it by planning a coffee date with your spouse and your senior. Then, go and dream with great intention about how you’d like this senior year to look for your family. I’ve created a planning page for you, which you can download by clicking on the thumbnail below or by clicking here. Consider your budget, time, and resources, and decide together which events take precedence. What activities connected to senior year matter most to your child? A senior ring? Senior ad? Senior photos? Prom? A graduation party with friends or extended family? Cross off what you don’t care about and invest yourself in what you do! Fair warning — unless you are independently wealthy with lots of leisure time, you will need to embrace saying “no.”
Create a Checklist of VIPs
The VIPs — or very important plans — for my oldest son included his senior soccer season, senior day at church, the prom, and having a graduation party with friends and family. We got these priorities on our calendar, and then I grabbed my planning page to create checklists with deadlines and shopping lists for each of the VIPs on the list. We got these dates on the calendar FIRST, let people know to save the dates, and then made those plans the priority with our time and money. Our son chose not to get a senior ring, a letter jacket, or to have a senior ad. There were also activities he declined at school and elsewhere, narrowing his focus so that he could enjoy his priorities without extra frenzy or stress.
Clear Some Margins
Seriously. To be present in this milestone year, you will have to clear some margins in your life. I think the best advice I got from multiple senior mom veterans was to be as present as possible. To do so, you’ll need to clear out some space on your calendar and task list. Senior year meant a season of “no” for things I could return to later. It meant that I chose to invest in what was important to my senior, which was soccer. I backed out of commitments with my youngest child’s school for that year. It meant that I declined activities and meetings that might take away from family dinners. I tried to be there when my son got home from practice, and I am particularly grateful for that choice. As senior year proceeded, he would come home and sit for a chat. He would tell me about his day or just make small talk. Some days, he would head to the shower after a quick hello. Most days, he’d sit down for a few moments. And on occasion, he’d sit and talk for 20 or 30 minutes. These everyday moments weren’t planned out or calendared, but I am very thankful that I made myself available for moments of connection.
Soak It In
I do mean, relish it all. Goodness knows, you have poured yourself out to get here with literal blood, sweat, and tears. So, pat yourself on the back. Throw on a party hat and plan your own “graduation” celebration with some girlfriends to mark the occasion. In every moment when you’re tempted to burst into tears or fear about the future, remind yourself that this is what you’ve been working toward. Then, choose to be thankful that you’ve done it! You’ve raised a tiny little babe into the awesome adult-ish person that he or she is. Soak it all in, sit in the moment, and take mental snapshots. Put the phone down and be present. Stop and tell yourself — “Good job! LOOK at what all we’ve been through to get to this point,” and then take a second to imagine all the good things ahead.
Senior year. Buckle up for a wild ride that will also be a meaningful season. Brava, warrior Mom. You’ve fought all the battles to make it to this point. Let me assure you — you’ve got this! And the planning will help.
You can read the continuation of this story in “Surviving Your Child’s Senior Year,” “Preparing for College Drop-Off Day,” and “Surviving College Drop-Off Day.”
Julie— I’m so glad this may have been helpful! Such a bittersweet season and I’m cheering us all on through it. Thanks for reading!