I know that last night’s slide show of photos of my son, Chris, and his classmates, who graduate from high school tonight, was supposed to make me cry. But it didn’t. Neither did last week’s awards ceremonies, or his last track meet, or, likely, tonight’s graduation.
No, what made me cry is when Chris, my youngest, said goodbye this morning and left for his last day of high school, shutting the back door behind him. Then I cried again an hour later, because I sold our kitchen table. I won’t need it in my new house at the Jersey Shore where we–well, mostly me–will live starting next month. Though I’m very excited about this next chapter in my life, I know that the last chapter is closing with a very long exhale that I wasn’t sure I’d be around to take.
My perspective on this year’s graduation appears to be different from everyone else’s. This became clear at Accepted Students Day at Ithaca College this spring. While Chris went off to attend some student-focused sessions, I stayed in the auditorium for a parent-focused one. There, mom after dad after mom asked questions about safety on campus, and whether their kid can find guitar lessons in town, and what to do if they don’t like their roommate, and what size sheets the beds take. Meanwhile, I sat in my chair and refrained from blurting out, “Let them go!”
Just let them go. I know it’s not easy when you’ve spent the last 18 years carting them to lessons and practices and looking over homework and softening the blow of a broken heart. But let them go. We raised them to leave us. That was the whole point.
Commencement means beginning, not ending. The lives we prepared them for are just now beginning, and we’ve done all we can to get them here. Of course, we’ll be there to help guide them through the bumpy parts of adulthood if they need it, even if it’s just by text hundreds of miles apart. But dammit, we did it! We raised them!
I realize that this perspective of mine doesn’t jibe with modern parenthood. But what’s in the future doesn’t make me sad, and what’s in the past doesn’t really, either. When my youngest shut the back door this morning to head to high school for the very last time, it was like crossing a finish line after a long marathon. Yet that marathon was almost cut short 10 years ago when I had cancer. That autumn, I drove past a Christmas tree farm every day on my way to radiation treatments, and begged God to let me live long enough to see those trees grow tall enough to be cut down.
In other words: Please let me see my kids grow up.
And now, I have. Nick finished his first year at art school in New York City, and Chris leaves for Ithaca this fall. I’ve sold the house and I’m downsizing to a beach house that’s close enough to the ferry to Manhattan that I can keep on working in medical writing there, which I’ve done for the past few years. I haven’t blogged much; the last time was a year ago today for Nick’s high school graduation. I just had less and less to say as the heavy lifting of parenting got lighter and lighter.
Now, it’s time to let MommaSaid go, too. I launched it in 2003 when my kids were little and I was a married, work-at-home mom in search of camaraderie and validation in the years before social media took over our social lives. It was a place to record the amazing and funny things that happened while driving the minivan to soccer practice, before every damn mother in America started doing the same thing in blogs and on Facebook and Instagram.
It’s the end of an era. The end of one of the very first mom blogs. The end of parenting kids living under my roof year-round. The end of my kitchen table being in the kitchen where I’ve fed my kids all their lives. The end of raising my kids to leave me.
But, dammit, I did it! I raised them! Best of all, I lived long enough to see them grow up. And that’s what makes me cry.