I suppose I knew this day was coming. For years, I've heard other parents talk about it. Some refer to it with sadness and longing. Some think of it as joyous and liberating. I don't know what I'm supposed to think or feel, but here it is: the day the youngest of our four children graduates from high school.
There's too much going on right now related to Sam's graduation event to think much about it. I'm doing well to remember what all I'm supposed to prepare (or repair) for the graduation party. I wouldn't be fair to myself, however, if I didn't stop and note something of the significance of this particular passage to me at this moment.
In a couple of months, Sam will head off to a university and all the kids' rooms will be empty for the first time since Becky and I had fun preparing a room for our first child, Abby. As odd as that will be, it's not about empty rooms. It's more about realizing that we will have sent forth four precious lives that we were given as a trust for the past 25 years. In this, we're grateful for the privileges and responsibilities we've had.
It took a few years, but we eventually adjusted to being full-time parents and living as a family and shaping our lives together. By the time Sam hit Kindergarten, the Hay household was a well-oiled machine. We were settled into being routinely on the run. We were primed to support and celebrate and encourage and guide and respond to whatever the opportunity or crisis of the moment called for. What a breathtaking journey we've been on!
Becky and I have given much of ourselves to our children through these years. We've not done so begrudgingly or haltingly, but willingly and gladly. You will hear no complaints or regrets from us. But whatever we have spent of ourselves trying to raise four kids, we've received incredibly more. In the mysterious dynamic of parenting, somehow, we've gained something intangibly precious.
I've heard enough people talk about the empty-nest syndrome to realize there are serious changes ahead that will require careful negotiation. I'm not so illusory that I think our job as parents is over. I know that we are not now somehow shifting--or being shifted--into neutral after living in overdrive for years. I anticipate that Becky and I will approach whatever lies ahead in practical and hopeful ways. May the grace that has brought us safe thus far, safely lead us on.
There once was a time when we were not parents. We will ever be parents, and, hopefully, enjoying ever-maturing relationships with our young adult children. But our time of being parents with children growing up and maturing in our home is almost complete.
Sam's graduation is his celebration and passage; may he launch forward and shine. It's also something of a much more muted celebration and passage for Becky and me. Amid our celebration of this last High School graduation of one of our children, there is a celebration of the joy of parenting and a passage toward another part of the journey.