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Graduation Parties, Pomp and Circumstance and the Parental Paradox

Ah, it is the season of graduations, parties, pomp and circumstance and the paradox of parental feelings, from “wow, time went fast” to “we can’t get them out of the house soon enough.” On the latter, if you have moments of these thoughts over this summer, between high school graduation and that next step in life -- college or some other adventure -- you are not alone.

MIKE: She admits it now, but my wife was emotional all senior year with Numbers 1 & 2. She heard from another experienced parent that they are always your child, but something changes when they move out, even temporarily. At that point it was like Kori wanted to make sure she had done all she could, making up for lost time. It is even why we have dog Number 3.

By design, God created these children who were once dependent, adorable babies to grow more distant from us with each milestone, expressing their own viewpoints, making their own decisions, driving cars, etc. That is how it should happen and while it initially can sting as they need us less, it is the path of life. I am good with that growth and encourage it.

Where I get a little challenged is when the taste of freedom, no more school, and the prospect ahead of being free from having to check in with mom and dad each day starts well ahead of college move-in day.

MIKE: Ah yes, as we were cleaning up from Child Number 1’s graduation party, she was headed out to celebrate with friends. When we asked where she was going, this normally independent-thinking yet well-mannered child said as she walked away, “ you can track my phone.” Kori and I look at each other in disbelief and simultaneously thought, “What just happened?”

Oh, that summer was one of the more memorable ones; and perhaps, Number 1 trained us to better handle the transitions of Numbers 2, 3 and 4. From the time the kids were young, I told them about my favorite of the biblical Ten Commandments – “Obey your mother and father!” While they snickered as I said this over and over again, we, for the most part, had some good kids who could think for themselves and the majority of the time made wise, age appropriate decisions.

This is why when the attitude heightened all summer before the freshman year of college; I got more and more annoyed. The love was unconditional, but I didn’t like the new behaviors I had to manage – more defiance, less cooperation, new language, increase eye rolling at my suggestions and more.

MIKE: On this point I have to agree with my wife. Number 1 and I had always been close as I had been home with her full time since she was 1 years old. It’s like when the tassel turned on her cap, she looked at me in a new way too.

Then it dawned on me, with a little help from other parents who explained this is the other part of God’s design. Number 1 was moving 11 hours away to go to school. Had we had the perfect bonding summer that good-bye would have been a lot harder (even so it still was tough to leave her there). As it was, we were both preparing to renegotiate the parent-child relationship. It is a change management process, setting new boundaries, conversations and expectations.

The love is always there, still unconditional and in fairness to Number 1, she is the first and teaches us all the time what it means to parent. (I just today as I write this got a lovely, touching card from her that made my heart pound with joy and beam at her compassion.)

So, if you have a graduate that is pushing boundaries this summer, they will come back to you. In the meantime, it is ok to wish them well on their journey this summer and count the days ‘til they go. It is all part of God’s design to build young adults.

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