Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Finding joy during challenging times takes a lot of work. I’ll admit that finding the silver lining has been extremely difficult lately. When I first started thinking about this topic, I was unsuccessful as I entitled the piece, Not Finding the Silver Lining. I was consumed with all that has been lost – my independence, shopping at TJ Maxx to relieve stress, living without PPE, working outside the home, and came up with umpteen reasons of why it was so difficult to find the little sliver of good. I was angry, sad, frightened and thoroughly disheartened with the situation and my inability of finding the good in this unbelievable period we are in. I was feeling down in the dumps and completely sorry for myself. Then my thoughts brought me to my soon to be high school graduate, my child whose senior year was cut short and not taking part the many events that were canceled. I realized my gloomy and cynical disposition was incredibly selfish, as I was thinking about what I lost.
For the past 13 years of my child’s life, I was the one who was thinking and planning all things surrounding his graduation. Let’s be honest, the majority all the Moms out there are the ones who got their kids to the finish line. Am I right?! In fact, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State Universities graduation ceremonies are all held on Mother’s Day Weekend, verifying the importance of a pushy and stay the course mom. I prefer to use forceful, insistent or indisputable. Nevertheless, my continued focus throughout my son’s educational journey has led me to this day. Not him, me.
Obviously I mourn the loss of what the past two months could have been, the final days of him walking the school’s hallways where the last 4 years were spent. I’m not so sure he is recounting the time he spent inside classrooms, the theater, and other places in the school I am unfamiliar with, nor am I certain he will feel sad about not saying goodbye to all teachers that consumed his 4 years. I do know the ones who made a significant impact will be the ones he reaches out to in the future. Moving on from this time in his life was always going to happen, it just happening with a different timeline and change in plan. My heart hurts for him, and for the countless others missing out on graduation, but really it is breaking one thousand times more for me and my loss! I was looking forward to a formal acknowledgement indicating my duties and responsibilities have been fulfilled. Having to say goodbye to making his lunch (in full disclosure, my husband assumed responsibility of making lunch this past year), waking him up after the alarm has gone off 7 times, reminding him to do this or that before or after school, not scheduling teacher conferences, writing letters to excuse an absence – all of those things I was doing for the past 12 years is what I’ll be mourning. Gone are the days where I will receive the weekly updates by phone (both home and cell phone), text, and email from the school’s principal and school district. To make matters worse and much to my dismay I will no longer receive announcements of school closures for inclement weather at the stroke of midnight, as we all waited for Wake County Board of Education to come to a consensus. I am certain those late night calls are what I will miss the most. I jest as the upcoming changes in my life will certainly be welcome and liberating. Having to say goodbye to some of those things is a large sliver of happiness as we move to another phase of family life.
All kidding aside, trying to remain positive when we are faced with uncertainty leaves us emotionally exhausted and physically drained. My son sometimes looks to me (my husband more frequently) for an answer by asking when will the all be over? Maybe never I say. However you look at it, he will have to navigate the uncertainty of life just like the rest of us. No one ever said Adulting is easy or uncomplicated. Not knowing what our next steps are can either paralyze us into submission or motivate us for change and adapt accordingly.
Trying to put into perspective why I feel so sad about what he is missing out on is because I experienced some of it in one form or another. Am I reliving and potentially trying to rewrite my own history though his experiences? Possibly. He fortunately doesn’t know the difference.
Old traditions sometimes die off and new traditions are made. For one, not going to his Senior Prom, was an event that didn’t happen this year. Since I never went to mine, the loss of him not going I believe is negligible. From what I heard, it’s over hyped, way too expensive, food is lousy and cold, a mediocre DJ with music we no longer understand, as well as the hotel staff counting the minutes until it’s over. In all honesty, who likes having a large group of loud, screaming teens with raging hormones all congregating in one place? And, as far as after parties are concerned, the beach or a mountain chalet is too far away to go to an after party. That is money well saved, and my bank account is happier today. Senior Ditch Day is a day where all the seniors get to leave. Not much has changed, as once finals are complete, seniors could leave anyway. Besides, the last 2 months he’s been living it. My son was never one to skip out of class, unlike his “role model” parent. In fact, if he needed something with my signature and had ‘forged’ it, he’d let me know. So not like me, who forged my mothers signature every day for weeks as I cut out of Eighth period. I had my mother’s signature down pat, better than she did. Thankfully, times have changed for the better! Not having Senior Awards ceremony to acknowledging individual achievements, like recognizing a Valedictorian is a tremendous loss, and am genuinely sad for the entire senior class. When I asked my son who will be the valedictorian this year, he said no one because the school didn’t want to upset any of the students. No joke! I can appreciate every student and their emotional well-being, however not honoring the best and the brightest seems wrong, a disservice to those who embraced their education, reached for the stars, and followed their passions with imagination and determination. I digress. I remain hopeful the school comes up with a fun and meaningful way of honoring each and every student. That my friends, is my nugget of optimism.
Graduation, the pomp and circumstance and all it encompasses has been a day I’ve been dreaming of since my son was born. Yes, my family will experience graduation one way or another, through a new and innovative way. It certainly isn’t the one I imagined or the one I lived through when I sat in 90 degree temps with nearly 100% humidity, sitting on the football field in the glaring sun, perspiring profusely underneath the polyester gown, waiting for my name to be called. The Wake County school district has yet to finalize plans, and my hope is it will be special regardless of how it is delivered. And, as I think about his time in daycare, elementary, middle and high school, acknowledging each ‘graduation’ from one phase to another was made with much fanfare. Graduation from high school should be no different. I am beyond proud of all the work he did to get to the finish line. I look forward to his graduation when he receives his well-earned diploma, and moves the tassel from right to left. It will be joyous and I will proudly pat myself on the back for all of my hard work. I did good. And, since the valedictorian will not be giving the traditional graduation speech, he and his classmates won’t be missing out on those traditional platitudes that no one really listens to anyway. See, it wasn’t too difficult – I found a medium size sliver of silver.
For all of those parents of graduating seniors (both High School and College), our hearts hurt for the loss of those events our children didn’t partake in. Our loss is very real, yet our children’s loss has yet to be measured. These very same kids, the new adults in the room have shown more resilience by embracing change, by completing their work and exams through the use of technology by adapting to the new normal, with ease and without hesitation. I am sure many know that if we were put in the same circumstances as a graduating senior our adaptability may be questioned. As my father used to say, out of crisis comes opportunity. Their opportunities are around the corner, haven’t been discovered yet, or is in its infancy. The changes in our daily lives to remain connected with one another have already been embraced. We’ve adapted. And, isn’t that what all the celebrations are about? To bring the senior class together, to acknowledge this time in their lives, to celebrate the successes and acknowledge the failures while moving forward in the face of adversity. Call me crazy, but I think the seniors have already learned and epitomize this valuable lesson!
“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” Charles Darwin