Continued from “Preparing for Your Child’s Senior Year.”
My year-long harassment for photos began on the first day of senior year. I made him stand in front of the house with his backpack, looking over his left shoulder. He complied with minimal complaining, having been forewarned his sentimental mom wouldn’t miss a photo op of ALL THE SENIOR YEAR THINGS. He didn’t even realize I was having him recreate his first day of kindergarten photo.
And so it began. It felt as though the sand in the hourglass was picking up speed, and I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d survive. Because I had yet to hear of any actual death by senior year, I figured this wouldn’t be fatal. But I knew it would be hard. I’d already completed my planning page, cleared some margins in life, and was keeping my paper planner close. I knew that aside from all those priority items, there would be a million other tasks. So don’t worry — I’ve got you covered with a printable of monthly checklists you can download by clicking on the thumbnail below (or just click HERE).
One of the most important aspects of emotionally surviving senior year happened by accident. Back in his sophomore year, Collin tried out for soccer on a whim. A closed door in another sport became the greatest opportunity as Collin found friendships and comradery on the soccer team. Although I didn’t know her well, an acquaintance asked me to be booster co-president with her during our sons’ senior year. I agreed because I was determined to make this senior soccer year the best one yet.
Sue quickly became not only my partner-in-crime for soccer, but also the emotional support I needed. Her older son had graduated just the year before. Quite by happenstance, I had not only a senior-year veteran to guide me, but also a mom friend walking through senior year with me.
Moms, listen to me. No matter how introverted you are, or how many friends you already have, a key to surviving senior year is building intentional friendships with other senior moms and moms who’ve been there. Finding friendships that will inspire bravery for the big changes ahead will greatly enhance your coping skills. As Sue shared good things from her older son’s first year away, I began to notice how people asked me about graduation as if it were a death sentence. I needed friends who could help me begin to envision the good things that were coming, on the other side of college drop-off.
So, jump out of your comfort zone by initiating a conversation, inviting an acquaintance to coffee, or joining a Facebook group of senior moms. Better yet, start such a Facebook group! While my husband and I tried to keep communication open about our son graduating, having another mom to talk to is a different kind of support. We moms just feel it all in a distinctive way. So, if senior year is hitting you square between the eyes, seek out moms who’ve been there and are there right along with you.
One of the tricky parts of navigating senior year is processing all your feelings. Gathering baby photos for school, church, soccer, and the graduation party certainly sparked my nostalgia. I used a journal for writing out my prayers since I was a teenager, and found this to be particularly helpful during this very tender mothering season. This allowed me to pour out my emotions, thoughts, and fears, and it helped me to get a grip. I just needed to express the crazy jumble of pride, sadness, joy, and melancholy. Maybe you process emotions through exercise or art or some other way. In whatever capacity you prefer, find a way to acknowledge and work through the feelings you may experience during the bridge from childhood to adulthood.
This is where I’m going to insert a borrowed phrase. Throw grace around like confetti, especially on yourself, but also on your child, your other children, your friends, and your spouse. Generously fling about grace for whatever you may be feeling. It is no small endeavor to transition into the next thing, and your next step may not look like that of others. If your child didn’t get into the school he wanted, toss around grace. If your child isn’t going to college, hurl around heaps of grace. If you feel sad, ecstatic, full of regrets, excited — whatever — you guessed it. Grace like confetti. And just in case you haven’t heard of a thing called senioritis — yep. Grace in buckets may be essential.
Here is one specific way I’m gonna be the boss of you and urgently call for grace. Do not process all your feelings with your child. Do not thrust your crazy emotions on him or her 24/7. Do not guilt-trip or sob hysterically. I’m not saying lie, but I am saying a poker face may be necessary at times. This is what we must remember from now until they are quite settled into the next big thing: Your children will feel a wide array of emotions too. They may or may not let you know they are terrified or they feel guilty when you talk about the void they will leave. They may actually seem distant or angry more than anything else. SO, we do what we do best. We be the moms. We talk ourselves off the ledge with our friends or husbands, and we work hard to continue to be the safe place for our kids to fall.
Repeat after me, mamas. Senior year is not an ending. It is a beginning. This may be a bumpy ride, but just as you have always done, you will continue to be the mom your child needs. From that first photo op of senior year until the walk across that stage. The best is yet to be!
You can read the continuation of this story in “Preparing for College Drop-Off Day,” and “Surviving College Drop-Off Day.”