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Vogt's Notes: Graduation means a new chapter for parents, too

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Graduation nights have come and gone at area high schools.

Students donned their caps and gowns. Girls tottered on high heels. Conversation swirled in the hallways as the graduates adjusted their caps, found their places in line and patiently waited for their ceremonies to start.

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Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus seniors filed into their high school gyms one last time while “Pomp and Circumstance” played. In Brainerd, a seemingly never-ending sea of blue made its way down a long set of stairs and weaved around the high school track as students took their seats on the football field one last time.

Whether the senior class numbered 60-something, 130-something or nearly 500, the same sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air for graduates and spectators alike.

Each class’ top students shared speeches with their classmates, reflecting on the past 13 years and looking to the future. Adults shared words of wisdom as well. Finally, each student had his or her moment of fame as each name was read aloud and the gown-clad seniors accepted their high school diplomas, signifying the successful end of 13 years of hard work.

The happy graduates ventured on to Grad Blast, all-night parties to celebrate their highest accomplishment one last time with their classmates. The weekends since graduation have been filled with one grad party after another.

Already some graduates have headed off to the next chapter in their lives, whether it be full-time work, part-time work, some form of college or the military. More and more will venture off as the summer progresses, and the whole cycle will repeat itself with the start of the 2013-14 school year in September.

But what about the graduates’ parents?

Sure, we’re happy and excited, too. But whether it’s our first, second or last child graduating from high school, we’re suddenly facing a new chapter in our lives, too.

On the one hand, we have to let go of that child and let him or her be responsible and mature and find their way own way. On the other hand, it seems like just yesterday we were picking out their clothes, pulling their hair in tight piggy tails and sending them off to kindergarten with backpacks that were bigger than their backs.

We’ve been leading them, guiding them and advising them for the past 18 years. We’ve signed them up for T-ball, softball, basketball, dance and soccer; driven them to practices; cheered them on at competitions; and faithfully attended all choir and band concerts since their elementary school days.

Now we suddenly have to let go?

We’ve tackled difficult assignments with them; we’ve helped them study for tests; we’ve taken active parts in science projects; and we’ve encouraged them and stood by them when times were tough.

Sure, we’ll still always be there to continue to encourage and stand by our graduates. But as they taste freedom and independence, as they find their own way, the fear is that eventually they’ll need us less and less.

That’s good. But it’s also sad as this happy, frustrating, challenging, stressful, but ultimately rewarding chapter in these parents’ lives ends.

I wish the classes of 2013 the best of luck. But always remember where you came from and who helped you every step of the way to get to where you are today.

That’s us — the parents.

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