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By Carolyn Primm
Miniature mortarboards tilted precariously over black plastic gowns as the kindergarten class of 2020 paraded to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. Each little face was uplifted as each child intently scanned the bleachers for his or her people. No other focus existed until those faces were found. Then, with relaxed shoulders, and eyes forward, each head bobbed merrily along. Some celebrants waved and hooted. Some ducked their head and grinned. But, there was no doubt when the true celebration began. It was when their eyes met yours.
Twelve years have passed. That scene will repeat itself this Spring. Some families will hoot and wave wildly. Other students will meet eyes with their support system as they halt-step down the aisle. The message remains the same, “You are loved. We are here for you.”
Graduating seniors have no idea of the significance of this graduation event to the eyes who are watching them. This is the day when moms and dads, and other significant people in the lives of these students must let go. Letting go is never easy. Letting go signals a new normal. If we learned nothing else from this recent pandemic, we surely have learned what new normal does to the soul. Yes, many things will stay the same, but many things will never be the same. Watching eyes see that. A mixed bag of emotions comes with this new normal.
Though students are the ones being celebrated. The students are often the least aware of the change that is coming. Their lives are moving forward; upward and onward toward new goals. This adventure looks exciting. Guardians and parents, however, are stepping back from roles that have consumed their lives for at least 18 years. While many are breathing a sigh of relief that their child has successfully met this milestone, that breath does not come solid. That breath comes ragged; hopeful, but uncertain. Now, the graduates must face the future with only the tools we have given them. Is their tool bag sufficiently equipped for the challenges ahead? How can we be certain?
Having been there, done that, cried the tears, and hugged the graduate, let me share what that bag must contain. Number one, that bag must contain the ability to hold on. Mistakes will be made, and doubts will overwhelm at times. No matter. Hold onto the relationship. Always be there, as someone who cares and as someone who will support your child emotionally. Number two, that bag must hold the ability to let go. Your child needs the opportunity to be independent. Now is not the time to grab the bag back, to question the contents, or to cling. Let go!
Those may seem like opposing messages, but they are one in the same. Unconditional love stays close, and unconditional love lets go. To launch successfully, every rocket needs a solid foundation, and a major push to send it into orbit. Your graduate came to that first graduation looking up to find you, for reassurance of that foundation. Now it is your turn to look up to reassure them of their ability to be independent. Put your hands behind your back. Look up. You can hoot and wave wildly, or wipe your eyes, and smile shyly. Either is okay. They are loved. You were there. That is what counts.