Commencement Means Beginning

I have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster ever since I wrote this last summer. It was therapeutic to share my crazies, and I did a decent job of bouncing back cheerily for the next several months. Then came the college application process, fraught with all kinds of unpleasantness, details of which I will spare. After that, a short period of relief, then back to sadness. At book club a couple months ago, I unexpectedly started crying while talking to the mom of another senior. Not just normal teary eyed stuff, actual boo-hoo-I-need-a-tissue-now crying. After that, I felt better for a good stretch, up until last week. I’m sure it’s pretty exhausting to be my friend these days.

Now with the new batch of commencement speeches being published online, I find myself weepy all over again. Happy and sad and proud and frustrated and worried and…well, just a bit of a mess. Did we do enough for my son? Did we do too much? It’s just so hard to know. We tried to give him all of the things he needed and some of the things he wanted. We tried to lead by example, model forgiveness, embrace natural consequences, love unconditionally…all of the standard things in our Good Parent contract. But was it enough?

One thing I will say with certainty is that we don’t regret a single dollar or single minute spent on family time. When I look back on the very brief eighteen years when he was just “mine,” I picture countless family dinners at the kitchen table, vacations to Vermont and occasionally more exotic places, long summer days spent at the pool and nights barbecuing. I picture sitting around the fire in the back yard, making sticky s’mores and playing Frisbee with the dog. I picture snowmobiling and snowman making and camping trips and long forced family marches through hot, buggy trails. I picture those countless hours and miles at lacrosse, soccer, basketball, ski slopes, swimming lessons, tennis lessons. I picture Monopoly games and checkers and Scrabble and Texas Hold ‘Em and seventeen Christmas mornings. All of those memories are silver and gold right now, and I only wished I gathered more of them while I could, just like every mother everywhere.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Back in the 1980s, almost every commencement speech began with, “Commencement means beginning.” We didn’t have Google back then, so we reached for the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Overplayed or not, it is a true statement, and one I try to keep in mind whenever I’m sad that it’s time soon for my arrow to fly. Best of luck to the class of 2014, and to all of the brave and stable bows sending them off into the world.