I have been getting plenty nervous about the fact that our son will be leaving for college soon. Since his Evanston Township High School graduation in early June, I have come to understand the meaning of the word “bittersweet.” I always thought it a rather silly word, I suppose because I had never really experienced the emotion before.
Watching my son and his friends – all 677 of the graduates – march up to the podium to collect their diplomas, I couldn’t help but feel excited for my son and all that awaited him. After all, high school graduation is when most of us believe our lives really began, isn’t it? This is where the “sweet” part came into play. But along with it came a deep hurt, which I only now feel capable of writing about.
Like most parents before me, I was coming to terms with the fact that my child was leaving our sheltering embrace to go out into the world. And we know how cruel a place it is at times. This is the beloved person for whose whole life I had been able to control the food he put into his body and where he could or could not go and with whom.
This is where the “bitter” comes in, where this most perfect of imperfect terms – bittersweet – began to make sense to me. This occasion was really turning out to be a grand moment in my life, if not my son’s. I guess it will be years before my son and his friends will make this emotional journey with children of their own.
Since my husband and I have crossed over Bittersweet River, and while it is still fresh in my mind, I thought I should share a few words with parents of small children. They are words I wish I had considered more along my son’s road from childhood to manhood.
Here it goes. Remember to enjoy every day with this wonderful child you so much love. Like all good things, the time he or she lives with you will be too short; childhood does come to an end.
Those aggravating fights about cleaning his room or what shirt he should wear often seem monumental. Although painful at the time, they really are no more than a blink of the eye.
I hope those of you who are dealing with some of those childhood dramas can see where I am going. My reminder to you is that each difficult moment with your young child will feel like nothing more than a hiccup in the long run.
You may be thinking, “Easy for you to say,” because you, dear reader, are in the midst of struggling with your child to change his or her blouse/shirt or to stop teasing the dog. And sometimes you feel like that child is going to drive you crazy.
Here, perhaps, is a remedy: Attend the next Evanston Township High School commencement. What you will see is not parents concerned about whether their children are wearing the wrong shoes. You will see the eyes of parents glued to their graduates, just as yours are probably glued to your small children. And almost every one of those parents is experiencing a “bittersweet” memory.
Watching a child become an adult makes a parent recognize that he or she has been given a ringside seat to one of life’s most incredible events – and the privilege of witnessing it in its entirety.
Those occasional collisions with the kids really are pretty minor bumps in the road. Some things just never really change from generation to generation, do they?