The final countdown has begun — to high school graduation.
You’d think that by my third and last child it would be old hat but it’s not.
In fact, it feels so much more traumatic, bewildering, and madcap-crazy than ever before.
Maybe it’s because she’s the baby and I’m smacked right between my eyes that my youngest child is hitting a milestone that, at one time, had seemed a million years into the future.
But, as the saying goes, I blinked.
Suddenly, she’s seventeen and I’m doing a mad rush to the finish line for a race I hadn’t realized had begun. Except, now I’m sprawled on the sidewalk, arms akimbo wondering how I tripped on my own feet.
Letterman’s jacket, class ring, graduation invitations, prom, Disneyland, Senior Sunset, (Senior Ditch Day, shhhh), senior pictures … the list is endless as we barrel toward the finish line, and I’m overwhelmed to the point of tears.
But, so incredibly proud.
After navigating a jagged path that nearly cut her to ribbons, she’s thriving in a way I never imagined possible.
For the first time, she has clear purpose for her future, a direction that she’s excited to pursue and I love seeing her true passion emerge.
Even so, I’ve silently cried more than anyone knows.
I already know I’m going to be a sobbing mess at graduation so if you see me, mascara running down my face like a felon from the SWAT team, just mind your business.
But it really hits me sidewise at odd moments.
Case in point, after her senior picture photo shoot, she was walking back to the car, wearing her cheer uniform for the very last time and even though this very scene has played out in our lives so many times (she’s cheered since she was six) I couldn’t stop the lump in my throat.
And then tears came and I knew if I didn’t stop the waterworks, I’d drown.
It was over. Truly over.
No more “next year” thoughts or chances.
An end of an era.
But it’s so much more than that.
She doesn’t realize that once they graduate there will be people she’ll never see again because life will throw them into the wind, and they’ll just be gone.
Maybe I’m being unnecessarily melancholy about my baby graduating high school but it’s where I am right now.
It’s her turn within the cycle of the wheel and I’m a proud mama.
But to all the moms (and dads) sniffing back silent but proud tears, I see you — and I’ll have extra tissue in my purse if you need it.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide a monthly column. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.