Ever since the 1905 commencement at Yale University, strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” have sent graduates marching forth across the stage.
From tape recorders and school orchestras, the tune reminds me that everywhere this month someone is going through a big change.
A kindergartener is ascending to first grade (yeah, we all think kinder-graduations are a bit much), high-schoolers make that herculean leap from close knit friends and family—life as they know it—to college and the slow but ever so sure move to separation. College graduates contemplate grad school versus flipping burgers, and grad students don their caps and hope NOT to flip burgers.
As sun, grass, and warmer water beckon folks outside to have fun, teachers and students are ending a year and saying good bye to one another, with all the mixed emotions that come with the end of the school year and, for some, the end of school.
Some students are surprised by the mixed emotions that come along with joy and pride, but parents get their own seat on the mental roller coaster. We stand off to the side as our graduates sail on by, and unless we’re careful, our own mixture of happiness, relief, sadness and grief get covered over with activity.
No one told me, or maybe I wasn’t listening, about how hard it would be for our first child to leave for college. It seemed everything—from the thought of one less placemat at dinner to how many miles would lie between our home and the college—made me feel like crying. It was hard to understand. After all, we rarely saw our son, who was either surfing or playing volleyball, but his leaving home was just plain sad.
Transitions are hard, and the changing shape of a family is one of the hardest. It’s the beginning of another phase—a happy one for those lucky couples who look forward to being alone again and exploring everything they’ve put aside for years of child-rearing.
Our amazing brain is hard wired to experience many emotions at once, and yet whenever that occurs, we’re caught off guard. Confusion is the state of experiencing more than one feeling at the same time. I tell the parents I talk to that it’s more important than ever to keep family rituals during this time.
Slow down, have supper together, increase the opportunities for closeness and shared reflection. Savor the summer, the close moments together, and then fasten your seat belts for more fun ahead.