As the end of school year draws closer, I find myself caught in the midst of graduation talk everywhere I go. Graduation dinners, graduation ceremonies, graduation traditions (for instance, I hear it is tradition for some kids to stay up all night and watch the sun rise over Tiananmen Square and witness the flag hoisting, on the night of their graduation ceremony). Then there is the elephant in the room, the dreaded day that most parents can’t stop talking about, bidding adieu to their babies who are now more than ready to step into the next phase of their lives.
My husband and I are just two short years away from experiencing this ourselves. At times I catch myself holding back tears, listening to all my friends verbalize their thoughts and emotions. The heartache that accompanies this bittersweet milestone in their own lives, preparing for their kids to take flight, is inevitable.
Conversing with some close friends, I’ve started to pick up on patterns these conversations fall in to. They all typically start with how frustrating it is to get minute details of this event right! A myriad of things could go wrong and ruin the night for them, scarring them for life (read: life in graduate terminology)! My friends impress upon me the long list of potential disasters they’re averting, starting with the dress, the hairdresser, unsupportive friends or an insensitive family member, body image, timing and more.
The venting is usually followed by expressions of emotional distraught that they anticipate will drown them when the time finally comes. However, the conversations invariably drift to funny memories, that switch the emotionally charged mood, to ridiculously funny and eventually uncontrollable laughter. I asked some of my friends to list what they look forward to, when their children leave the nest and here are some quirky responses.
“I can’t wait to get that phone call from the UK, when she’ll need to have her blood drawn and will need hand holding through that,” said one.
“Oh, I can finally make lasagna for dinner without seeing her pull a face,” another friend chimed in.
“Getting more sleep and not having to stay up late waiting for her to get home safe after a night out. One less person to argue with over picking a movie for family movie night,” she added, making me almost fall over laughing.
One mum is looking forward to finding her clothes and shoes in her own closet, neatly put away, instead of having to rummage through the pile on the floor of her daughter’s room – not to mention having access to additional closet space!
“I can finally sit on her bed…imagine that!” chuckled another mom! She humored me with an explanation, “That’s a big one, she likes to have her covers just so…so, when you get close to her bed, she gives you this, don’t-even-think-about-it, look. Not having to clear empty candy wrappers and biscuit boxes from the cupboards too,” she added. Somehow her daughter had managed to master the art of imbibing the contents, but couldn’t figure out how to accomplish the monumental task of disposing of the empty wrappers and boxes into the trash bin.
The list goes on, but you get the gist. Grateful for the company and wisdom of these amazing parents, I’m inspired to seek out the humor in life’s unavoidable experiences that will most certainly make us laugh out loud, making the experience ‘bittersweet’.
Photo: Courtesy of Anjana Kainikkara