Mighty Mommy shares 6 of her favorite hopes for graduates and their families during this exciting season of graduation.
June marks the end of yet another school year, and with that, it also marks the beginning of a fresh new journey into the next phase of life for those who are not only finishing up with school but also celebrating a graduation.
I myself, a mother of 8, will soon be celebrating my fourth child’s high school graduation. Another Butler child will walk the stage and eagerly accept his diploma and in September head off to Colby Sawyer College, emptying my nest just a wee bit more as well as allowing me to announce I’ve made it half-way to the finish line with four kids now graduated and only four to go. Of course, with a clan the size of mine, I’ve also attended dozens of preschool, kindergarten, and middle school graduations as well.
The pomp and circumstance of graduation is an emotional rush, and certainly well-deserved, but once the ceremonies come to an end and that last celebratory balloon deflates, our graduates are left with one thing in common—moving forward and trying to make sense of it all as they journey into their next grade level (or for high school and college grads, that scary but exciting next step into the real world).
Whether you’ve got a precious 5-year old who will leave her safe and secure nursery school and soon be off to the amazing world of full-day kindergarten or a child who has successfully completed 4 years of college and will now be searching for his first full-time job where his degree will now be put to the test, the season of graduation is a wonderful time for parents to stop and reflect on the goals and dreams we have for our kids as they grow into independent, responsible young adults.
Here are my six favorite hopes for graduates and their families during this exciting season of graduation.
# 1. Live in the now, not the past or future. How many times do we sit and worry about what we hope to accomplish or what we’re afraid we might miss out on if we can’t connect all the dots before a certain given time? Spend your time and energy focusing on what you have going on in your life on this very day, not yesterday or tomorrow. It might very well change your entire future. This can certainly be a challenge when you're in the throes of raising busy toddlers and pre-schoolers—it's definitely normal to think ahead about how much easier it will be when you don't have to change hundreds of diapers or watch your 3-year old throw a tantrum. And then they are suddenly teenagers who can test the waters with defiant attitudes or just want to conquer the world without any parental interference. That will all pass, and then you'll be watching them graduate and start their own lives, so living in the moment is one way you can enjoy every stage of parenting without wishing it away.
# 2. Make time for yourself on a very regular basis. Ok, this is one of those ragtag pieces of advice we all hear regularly, and when you’re a young, fearless grad that is ready to take on the world, you might think it’s just a bunch of hogwash, so just tuck it away in the back of your mind. We all get busy—insanely, overwhelmingly busy, so if we don’t stay refreshed on a regular basis, when life really does give us a run for our money, we aren’t apt to cope as well. Even if you can only make time to sit and read a magazine after dinner, it's important for our children to see us doing something just for ourselves. They will model the same habits they see us modeling for them.
#3. Live in Gratitude. Yeah, yeah—we say we’re grateful, but do we really mean it and show it in our daily lives? Call me cheesy, but there’s something very powerful about stopping to give thanks for the basics in our lives—food to eat, a roof over our heads, two good hands that we can use to hold a book, paint a picture, or steer the car that takes us to our child’s baseball game. It takes less time to give thanks than it does to watch a commercial on TV. I make gratitude a daily habit and practice it in front of my family. Yesterday, I was carrying two large bags of groceries from the car into the house and one of my son's friends stopped riding his bike so he could rush over and open the door for me. When we got inside the house, I thanked him, but later that night when I was cooking dinner, I told my kids how appreciative I was that their friend Liam cared enough to stop his bike ride to help me. It made me feel great to be the recipient of even a small gesture like that. All those little examples of showing gratitude plants seeds with our kids so that they will in turn do the same in their lives.
#4. Take Chances. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is usually not easy for most folks, but the ones who don’t take even the smallest of risks may never know what wonderful adventures await them. Doors will open at different times throughout life, so even when you’re not sure which door to open, that doesn’t matter as long as you take a chance and realize that there will be an important experience on the other side of each and every door. If you have a child who tends to shy away from new experiences, start small by offering him different options for things like trying a new pizza place that might be in the next town, or going to a mystery movie rather than the comedies to which she's always drawn. Once they see that trying new things can be fun and interesting, they'll want to expand their horizons and take more chances in other areas of their life.
#5. Stay Connected. Today’s graduates can’t even fathom navigating a single day without a smartphone, an iPad, or keeping up with the outside world on some form of social media. No question the technology we have today keeps us on the cutting edge, but the one thing it can’t do is replace the personal connections we still need like a face-to-face visit with grandparents, a phone call to our mom and dad (hint, hint!), sending an actual written note for a special occasion like a birthday or job promotion—better yet, just staying in touch for no other reason than to let others know you care about them. When our kids see us taking the time to reach out to our friends and family, it lays the foundation for them to do the same when they venture out into the world without us taking care of these things for them.
#6. Always Be Ready to Embrace Plan B. Rarely does life go according to plan, so take advantage of that alphabet you learned way back when and don’t be afraid to engage letters B, C and D when Plan A doesn’t happen. My oldest child thought she would graduate from high school and head right off to college, but she just wasn’t ready and she knew it. She took a gap year instead, even though the majority of her friends left for college. Because she went with her gut instinct and waited to go to college, she got to travel, took time to discover what her career interests really were, met her fiancé, and will now be graduating with a business career that she loves.
What does graduation mean to your family? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Grad hat cloud image courtesy of Shutterstock.