New parents wonder how they’re going to survive keeping a child alive. They blink, and before they know it, graduation caps are being tossed into the air. Those same parents then wonder how they will survive without their child. Graduations bring changes for everyone, graduates, families, and parents alike. Previous chapters of life are closing. New adventures are beginning. These young people are embarking on the unknown. The recent grads must trust what comes next because they don’t receive guarantees or road maps. None of us do. The graduates are not the only ones adjusting to a new life. Those of us who are left behind will be challenged to redefine what our lives look like too. This is the moment parents have worked hard to prepare their children and themselves for. We have to believe we’ve done our best for the limited time our children were our audience.
Now we get to learn from them and be proud in new ways. Despite how grown up our children become, the need to be a parent will continue to be there. It is how we are needed that shifts. Perhaps it is us that become more needy. As happy as we are for our kids to forge their way in the world, a piece of us wants them to stay little. Being needed by our children makes us feel relevant. Letting go requires us to create identities that extend beyond our roles as caretakers. We now have, get, and need to turn the focus on ourselves more than our children.
Letting our children go is the only way to let them grow. Cherish the memories, look forward to the future, and embrace the changes for everyone. Toss your caps in the air and trust where life goes next.