Senior year is a time of "last firsts" for parents. It is the last first day of school to take a picture on the front steps, lunchbox (or not) in hand; the last first day of a soccer season to spend watching as a parent from the sidelines. It is the last first time to be enthralled at the senior art show and the last first time to burst with pride at Scholar’s Symposium, watching an audience mesmerized by your child’s research project. And for many, it may be either the last or first, high school graduation.
And while every last first moment signals upcoming new adventures our students are about to embark on, it reinforces the fact that our journey as parents is also changing. Whether you’re facing your first or last college send-off, your landscape is about to be different. As much as we wish there was an instruction manual on how to navigate this part of the parental journey, we’re often making it up as we go along.
Years ago when my son was about to matriculate into the 5th grade at St. Luke’s, I was sharing my excitement with a veteran faculty member. How incredible it was going to be to have a front row seat to see his daily comings and goings! I could be everywhere he was! That veteran faculty member patted me on the shoulder and said “Julia, my advice to you is to let him control the space between you.” “What do you mean?” I asked, aghast. You mean he might not want his mother knowing exactly what he did all day?
Looking back on that moment all those years ago, I realize what valuable words those were and how they served me so well eight years later when I was dropping him off at college.
I think it’s transitions like college drop-offs when kids and parents are at their most vulnerable. Our children are nervous about friends, classes and being away from home. And we begin to question the job we’ve done as parents and whether they’re prepared for what’s next.
Does he know how to study? To prioritize?
Will he wear a coat when it’s cold?
What if she can’t do laundry?
Will he starve?
While our instinct is to want to be there at every moment to catch them when they fall, the time has come to let them control the space between us. It can be a test of endurance for sure, but let them check in first, even if it means sitting by the phone for days. Resist the urge to initiate any calls and texts those first couple of weeks. Likewise, when they stumble on that first quiz or paper, reassure them that it will be fine; that they have the skills to manage and in fact, thrive. They’re ready and so are you.
Back in 2015, I had the privilege of being the parent speaker at my daughter Monika’s graduation. I wished the graduating class everything that they had experienced during their time here at St. Luke’s—dear friendships, people to guide and advise them, and a life of purpose and pleasure. St. Luke’s has been good to them and taught them well. So have you. Trust in the path that has gotten them to this point.
Both of you are about to embark on a new uncharted journey. Rest assured, their bags are packed with a solid foundation and values that will carry them far.
St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.
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