Dear Mom of the high school senior…
How are you? I mean really?
I see your posts on social media! I sense your excitement. I know how proud you are.
I want you to know I see all the things you are doing. I know how hard you have worked getting your baby this far in life… It’s bitter sweet, isn’t it? So ready to get this thing over with, mixed with a little tinge of sadness that the time flew by so much faster than we could have ever imagined! I want you to remember…even good change can be difficult.
I know that touch of fear you have not really KNOWING if they are ready for this next step. I can almost feel your angst, your sadness with a tinge of aggravation that you seem to be the ONLY one worrying about if this kid is really READY.
I know. I was there just 2 years ago.
But I can tell you right now… They are. And you are. You have planned for this their entire life. It’s time to enjoy yourself.
YES. This time. Right now.
You have things to do. You probably have that same thought I had rolling through my head of- “If I can just get through ‘this one thing’ I can enjoy this time.”
Here’s the thing- There will always be ‘one more thing’. You and your kiddo have obligations. I get it. But it doesn’t have to wreck your sanity.
Decide to decide what you want the rest of the month to look like. If you want to feel grateful and enjoyment, this is something you are going to have to focus on EVERY DAY. Frazzled, bitterness, and resentment seem to surface naturally. No shame about whatever emotions you are feeling. Feelings aren’t silly. This time is a smorgasbord of emotions. You will run through emotions of anger, fear and joy in about 1.2 seconds. If you don’t like something you are feeling right now, just wait, it will change shortly.
If you find yourself being short with the people you love most. It’s time it down. Slow Down. Give yourself a time out if only for a minute or two. They are not your enemy; you are the one that is not taking care of yourself. Those things you are getting yourself tied in knots about now will not even register a year from now.
This is the month you get to celebrate your graduate (and you).
Enjoy the parties and celebrations. Look around! Make eye contact. Especially if you are a soon to be empty nester! Chances are you may not see these kiddos or their parents as often as you do now. Feel this moment for what it is. Be PRESENT. Do NOT let your mind drift off into the future and all the thank you notes your child has still not written. There will be time.
This month gives you every opportunity to feel overwhelmed, under appreciated, and stressed. You have to decide how you want to remember this time. There is no do-over. Do you want to look back and remember yourself as the nagging, jaw clenched General Mom that did not allow herself to feel grateful in this moment, or can you relax your clenched fists and let go of the need to control this situation?
My tips to help you balance the stress, and enjoy the ride
Plan your days, weeks and month and decide how you want to feel about everything. Know not everything is going to go as plan. Your emotions and how you react to those things are the only thing you can control. Wake up 5 minutes earlier than the rest of the family and have a plan.
It’s okay to say no
You don’t have to be a part of every graduation party thrown. You get to decide what you want and how you want to feel. Boundaries are super important during this time. You can still celebrate without the perfect flower arrangement.
Eat real food
Quit skipping meals. It’s really hard to make good rational decisions when you are not fueling your body well. Pick quality proteins and fats. Both are very helpful when dealing with anxiety. Avoid the high processed desserts. It will just leave you feeling worse tomorrow.
Take those deep breaths often. Set the timer on your phone. Be conscious of the stress you are holding in your jaw, neck, and shoulders. Yes, it really does help take you out of fight or flight (and lets face it- MUCH of a Mom’s life feels like a state of fight or flight!). If you can schedule a facial, a massage, or a pedicure, do it.
Reach out to someone who has been through it before
It’s okay to ask for perspective when you are traveling new roads. Ask them what they remember most about their kid’s senior year.
Take a nap
Yes. A nap. Especially if you are having trouble sleeping at night, your team has made it to the playoffs, or your nighttime routine has been compromised. This could look like 5-10 minutes in your car. Who cares what people will think? Don’t be the overgrown toddler that is super reactive. No one works well on no sleep.
You aren’t forgetting anything. Quit listening to that nagging voice. Things are perfectly imperfect. But even good changes you are excited about can be stress-inducing.
Make your senior hug you often and much
Let it be awkward. You need it, and chances are they do too.
Remember that you are still teaching your child
As they begin to pull away and make their own decisions, you have to decide how you want to parent this new change of life. There are so many opinions on how to raise adult children, but here is the thing; the frontal lobe (the part of our brain that controls reasoning, planning, and higher executive functions) will not fully develop until age 24 or 25. Teens make more decisions from the amygdala, which is associated more with emotions, impulses, aggression, and instinctive behavior. They will not appreciate this bit of knowledge. But I am hoping you will.
When you absolutely want to snap them in half – repeat this fact to yourself as you breath in. Find your bliss. And no, it’s not in that one more glass of wine.
Somedays it will feel like you are pouring into an empty cup… No, a BUCKET… With holes in it
You pour and pour, but you don’t really feel like anything sticks. Believe me, it does. Your job is to take care of yourself so you can keep pouring. You have to parent your own emotions way before you can start parenting someone else’s, and THAT is why self-care is not selfish.
Runners Mothers to the line
Here we go! This is the last sprint. The last 400-yard dash to the end. Set your pace. You don’t want to burn out before you drop your precious cargo off at their new location.
Stand tall mama. Relax your shoulders. You did it. Say all the things you need to say, write them down.
Enjoy the moment. Let the tears leak out of your eyes. We know its not really coming from a place of sadness, but of pure awe. That this grown-ish person who is about to walk across that graduation stage was once that same snotty nose toddler that had had sticky hands and always wanted to hold you.