I am not an overly sentimental person; in fact pragmatic might be a better term to describe me. I prefer the daily drill to special occasions and think many major milestones are overrated (my wedding went by so fast I barely remember being there and didn’t get to eat a morsel). However, when it comes to my kids’ graduations, I am all in for celebrating. Graduations are about taking a moment from the craziness of life to pause and reflect; it is the brief time between what was and what will be. Three years ago, I wrote about my oldest son’s graduation from college, and now, as he graduates from law school, I have a few more thoughts to share.
Although I know that my son, who is one of the most intellectually curious people I have ever known, will be a lifelong learner, this graduation marks the conclusion of his (lengthy) formal education. It’s the end of the line for him as a student; no more first day of classes, no more encouraging notes from me about the upcoming year (which I was surprised and touched to discover he collected and saved), no more ordering textbooks on Amazon. And that is a big deal because I know he will miss it.
If I could have had one wish granted when my son was younger (specific to him and not world events), it would have been to have a crystal ball. I would have loved to know what he would achieve academically and, more importantly, the person he would become. I wish I could whisper, “He will be OK” in the ear of my younger self. It would have saved me an incredible amount of anxiety and worry. I dislike uncertainty, although I have come to understand and accept that it is one of the hazards of the job of parenthood.
When I watch my son, in his JD doctoral gown with its purple velvet and gold piping, receive his degree, I will reflect on the efforts it took on both our parts to get to this day. I will remember the boy who couldn’t sit still and the college kid who agonized over his future, now transformed into a serious, focused, and, best of all, considerate adult. I will recall the angst that went into each test and paper, every grade that was posted and the lessons we both learned along the way. So many thoughts will be racing through my head as I watch him achieve what he set out to do. Like many parents, I will have tears in my eyes, not because I am sad, but because I am overwhelmed and grateful to see him reach this day.
When my son starts his job in the fall, I probably will write him another note but this one will not be about studying or grades or reminding him to take care of himself or that we are there for him. He knows all that. Perhaps it will be about the transition from student to worker and about keeping balance in his life. Although my son has been employed every summer since high school, becoming a permanent member of the work force will surely be an adjustment. Maybe my note will just say how proud I am of him and how much I love him. In the end, that is what the other notes were really about anyway and the message that is most worth repeating.
Despite the crowds (which I hate) and the logistics of the upcoming weekend, I am looking forward to my son’s graduation and the opportunity to pause and reflect before resuming my regularly scheduled life. There will be other milestones and wonderful things to celebrate of course, however, this will be the last time I will see my son in a cap and gown. I will rejoice in the moment, and then, when it’s over, I will be excited to see him begin the next chapter in his life.