Missing senior year
Three years ago I wrote a Back Porch story about the plight of the younger sibling while the older sibling goes through the process of finding a college. At the time, we had a high school freshman and a high school senior living under the same roof. There was constant chatter about ACT scores and small-towns-versus-big-cities and dorm décor options.
The little sister was quiet, game to listen to the nonstop college talk that comes with the setting-free of a first child. Until she finally broke down. As a 14 year old, she was speaking in hashtags and using words like whatevs, and she used all of that to let us know she was over the whole college conversation.
But that was three years ago, and now we are having those conversations again, minus the hashtag talk. Only this time, things are different.
This time, football games were scarce – only a few were open to attend. This time, there was no last big homecoming blowout. No last cotillion, no graduation parties. No towering over the new freshmen, or hosting prospective eighth-graders. No in-person musicals or dance recitals or art exhibits. Even lunchtime suffered, first when kids ate in classrooms, then when they had to sit at a “social distance” from each other. That’s if they were lucky enough to be able to attend school in person, rather than on Brady Bunch tiles on their computer screens.
Being a senior this year wasn’t what the class of 2021 had envisioned, probably since middle school.
Nor was it what their parents had envisioned, probably since our 18 year olds were born.
I am so sorry for this class. All the last-firsts, as well as most of the one-and-onlys, looked different if they happened at all. I hate that these kids – mine included – didn’t get to make all of those memories they had been set up to make since Day One of high school. That they didn’t get the senior years their older siblings did, or the ones their younger siblings still will get. There are only four years of high school. There’s only one culmination of those four years. Our children don’t get a do-over.
And as sorry as I am for the seniors, I am almost as sorry for us, the parents. Doesn’t that sound selfish? I keep reminding myself: It’s the kids’ experience, not ours.
And then I read that story I wrote about my first daughter getting ready to go off to school. And I remember the college trips when colleges were open for official tours. The cotillion pictures. The on-campus parent nights when we would walk the halls and run into other parents and meet teachers and get a glimpse of what our kids did all day. I remember that I’m still scheduled to volunteer at school and feel like I’m a part of my child’s life there, but I can’t because campus is closed.
The parents of seniors needed all those senior milestones, maybe as much as the seniors did, to help us make our way together to the true end of an era. For those of us whose last child is graduating, we needed all of those little celebrations even more.
But here we are, and the class of 2021 will graduate. They will go on to college or whatever is next for them. The world is wide open to them (or at least we hope it will be soon).
And the parents will stand by and cheer while their children graduate, in some ceremony or another. It might look different, but it will happen, with or without all those little senior moments that would prepare us for the big one. Luxuries. I remember a friend telling me, when her son graduated several years ago, that she didn’t cry at graduation because she had so many chances to cry throughout the year. The only tears happening over here are those caused by too much togetherness. (Did I actually say that?)
My younger daughter, the one I wrote about when she was 14, advised me back then, when I was doing this senior thing for the first time, to chill. I guess we’ve all had to chill a whole lot this year. Because it certainly wasn’t what we thought it would be.
Still, the big picture remains: Our seniors are graduating. It’s happening, even without a year of prep and festivities. And this is one class we can be extra proud of, kids and parents both.
Editor’s note: Congratulations to the Class of 2021! See our June issue for our annual “Where are they headed?” spotlight on graduating Buzz seniors. Also, check out – and contribute to, if you haven’t yet – our database of college-bound seniors.
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