The time is here, the official countdown. Six months out, from a soon to be empty nest. Your first thought and temptation is to spend the year in a sad state of mind, thinking about all of the “lasts” you will be experiencing. The last first day of school, the last varsity game, the last prom picture or the last birthday at home (this one is the real heart stopper). It’s easy to feel overwhelmingly sad at such a monumental moment of your life after all, you’ve been there from the start! As emotional as this moment will be for all of you, I would like to pull you out of the rabbit hole that’s so easy to fall into and instead create a Parent’s Guide to making it through Senior Year, perhaps better known as a “bucket list”. So here it is!
Hire a professional photographer.
Senior and family photos are two very important moments you want to capture, and you want them to turn out flawless. Try for that one perfect set of family pictures or that one unique senior pose that captures the heart of who your son/daughter truly is. I know it seems like the kids are all grown, that the need to document their gorgeous faces has lost its urgency as the transitions slow. Wrong. That just-finished-childhood-not-quite-adult look is fleeting. Get someone who knows what they are doing to capture it.
Failures - talk about them.
Open up and talk about your own failures and how you recovered from them. Don’t be afraid to be honest and detailed. We loom so large in our children’s lives as the people who once held superpowers. Let them know how those powers often failed you as both an adult and a parent. This will be a conversation that sticks in their mind and that they will thank you for.
Give a gift they won’t forget.
This moment, these last days, are worthy of a gift you both won’t forget. Although jewelry and watches seem to be traditional choices for senior year, you can also expand on this and choose something unique and original. Remember, beauty and meaning, not expense, are the key factors in this purchase.
Share some of your secrets.
This is the time to disclose what they just might not know about you, things about your life that you glossed over, but now realize that they are old enough to understand. You will be letting them know that things may not always be as they seem, and that they are now a trusted near-adult, worthy of sharing family secrets.
Before they are gone, let them go.
Some parents keep their children on an insanely tight leash their senior year. Monitoring their every move, making them check in constantly. This behavior drives them crazy, also making them feel they are not worthy of your trust. Once they are on the downhill slope of their senior year, and that college admission check off list is complete, go ahead and let them take a few victory laps! Let them go out on a school night here and there or stay out a little later than normal. They need a little taste of freedom after all, they earned it!
This is the time, for those painful talks.
This is the time to sit down and have the discussion, the one you will wish you had if, God forbid, anything was to ever go wrong. I’m not talking about where your will is or how you would like to see your possessions disbursed. I am speaking of the talk where you recognize that you are speaking to a near-adult and you tell them things like, why you love or loved their other parent (this goes for divorced parents also), what makes a good marriage, how shocking it was to find yourself a parent and yet how amazing, what kind of wife/mother husband/father you hope they will one day be. Keep in mind this will feel sad, but while you are still in that day-to-day high school routine, take a moment to talk about the really big things in life.
Grab them tight and hold them close.
This is the time to revive some of the things that slipped away from what was once, your everyday normal routine. Go ahead and give them that morning hug, or kiss on the forehead that was, for years, a nightly routine when they were little. Don’t be afraid to sit by their bed with a hand on theirs. This is the moment when we clench them even tighter, hold them close enough to take our breath away, and then, we let them go…
Your child’s senior year is going to be filled with many “lasts” and it’s going to be one of the most difficult times of your life. This will also be one of the most important teaching opportunities as a parent you will ever have. Pull strength from within, stand up and face this hardship and make every single moment count. No one ever said parenting was easy, but it sure is worth it! You will never get these moments back, so make them count!