I have a closet in my dining room. It’s supposed to be a china closet, but as I have no china, and three kids, I use it mostly as a quick spot to shove stuff that I don’t want to lose but don’t have time to put somewhere else. My oldest decided to clean it out last week. We found her hanging locker shelf that she had used since starting sixth grade. The one that was in every locker she had, up until March 13 of this year, when she cleaned out her locker to go home for what we naively thought would be a few weeks until we got the virus under control.
It’s not under control, and three months into her senior year, we’re pretty sure she’s not going to go back into the building for in person school. Ever again.
There was something about that blue hanging locker shelf. It suddenly seemed so real to me – that time in her life was over. She’s (please God) going to get into a great college and moving on to new challenges and opportunities. She’ll be moving out of my house, and into adulthood. I started to get tears in my eyes, and then I started crying harder, and suddenly I was sobbing all over her shoulder, crying too hard to tell her that I wasn’t ready for it to end.
She laughed, and I laughed, and I pulled it together. Until she pulled out a framed letter she had written me when she was four, and I was in tears again. Then the baby pictures came out, and I gave up any semblance of control. Ever since then, I’ve found myself on the edge of tears more often than not. Everything seems to be a milestone, everything seems significant and I can’t seem to catch up with where we are.
I google “parent sobbing senior year” and try to remember if any of my friends went through this. I hear a song on the radio that reminds me of her babyhood, her toddlerhood, even the early Taylor Swift songs she loved when she was a tween, and I’m crying again.
I want her to go to college. I’m thrilled with how hard she’s worked, so proud of the young woman in front of me. I want her to move on to the next step. But there’s a part of me that already misses having her beside me.
I find myself wishing for a Jewish life cycle event. It feels like her bat mitzvah in some ways. She’s worked so hard on college applications and supplemental essays and AP exams, it’s reminiscent of the months studying her Torah portion and writing her d’var. We recognize and commemorate a child’s birth with a baby naming, her entry into Jewish adulthood, but there’s nothing to mark this stage.
Having a high school senior in the 2020/2021 school year means you may not get any milestone events. No National Honor Society assembly, no scholarship dinner, and probably no graduation event. In many ways, she already feels done with high school, her classes are done at her desk in her bedroom, and her focus is on scholarship applications and filling out the Common App.
Parenting doesn’t end when your child turns 18 or graduates from college. I know that. But it changes. And while it’s been changing for years, and I like to think that I’ve prepared her for the future and she’s more than ready for it, I know that it still feels like it’s too soon. I wasn’t ready for her birth, honestly. I was used to being pregnant. I loved her infancy, her babyhood, the toddler stage, the preschooler, and all the way right up until now. I wasn’t ready for any stage to end. I know it’s harder with her, because I haven’t done it before. I might be relaxed and carefree when my younger kids reach this point. But right now, I just want to press pause for a bit. To sit with this stage, to recognize what’s changing and what’s coming up next. I want to honor the sacredness of what’s happening, as this daughter of mine reaches the end of her childhood.
Parenting doesn’t end at 18 and the end of senior year. But this year is going to signify the completion of something. And while I’m not sure what it is, exactly, because at seventeen, my daughter is independent and brave and making her own choices about just about everything, I do know that I can’t stop crying. Not out of sadness, but more out of a recognition. I’ve loved having her grow up beside me. So I’m resigning myself to a year of tears and extra hugs and heightened emotions. Because being her mom is one of the best and brightest parts of my life, and I’m not ready for this stage to end.