I’m delighted to announce our daughter is graduating from high school and I’m planning a party. I’m also delighted to announce I will never do this again. This is the second time I’ve thrown one of these soirees. The first was three years ago when my son wore the mortar board. Never having thrown a graduation party I was surprised to learn the breadth and scope of the typical celebration. I planned an open house for three hours on a Sunday afternoon. While I invited 35 assorted friends and family, my son used Face Book to evite 160 additional guests. When I questioned his sanity, he defended his position by suggesting he chose his guests carefully from a possible 950 plus. He also had the nerve to imply his father and I need more friends.
Between dusting off the big platters and reviewing cookbooks like “Cooking for a Mob” and “A Hundred Ways with Chicken Wings,” I thought about what a graduation party is really celebrating. Most would say it’s about finishing high school and sailing toward a wide-open future. From the mom perspective, it’s about the end of more than high school. It’s saying good-bye to the hundred things I used to do for my kids long before they became independent college-bound narcissists.
Honestly, there are some things I have not missed as they’ve gotten older. I’ll never again have to step foot into the germtastic ball pit at Chucky Cheese, or watch another Pokémon video. I won’t enter another Disney store, Disney World or have to watch High School Musical ever again. And I am beyond grateful that Barney, Raffi, and The Cheetah Girls have left the building. But most importantly, and God willing, I’ll never again have to wipe anything.
Then there are the tasks I don’t exactly miss, but still remember fondly. No longer does anyone need their food cut into tiny squares, clothes picked out or shoes tied. When we go to the beach, they apply their own sunscreen and there are no Swimmies to blow up. Teeny forks and sippy cup lids don’t get ground to bits by the garbage disposal, and I won’t ever again stay up to two in the morning assembling three dozen Speed Racer-themed birthday party goody bags.
The tasks I do miss, and have missed for years are those most intimate and quiet. The kinds of things kids outgrow, or in my case, begged me to stop. So, no longer do I grab her hand when we cross the street, or brush his curly ginger hair. I don’t get to rest my cheek on a forehead to check for a fever, or sing made up verses of Mockingbird to get them to sleep. I don’t get to tuck anybody in.
My kids took their lunch to school for a dozen years each. In elementary school I composed little notes that I stuck between peanut butter sandwich and juice box. There were rushed and stressful mornings when the last thing I wanted to do was write a lunchbox love letter. Frequently the messages would read like manic ransom notes: HAVE A GREAT DAY!! LUV U! M. On more leisurely mornings notes would be drawn and written in a variety of colored pencils, with added details: Good Luck on the math test Sweetie! See you after school for karate! Don’t forget to eat your carrots! HEART XOX HEART XOX! Mom!!
When he was in fourth or fifth grade, I stopped writing notes to my son. One afternoon after pick-up, sitting next to his sister in the back seat of the van he casually mentioned I didn’t have to pack them anymore.
“Nobody else gets notes, Mom,” he patiently explained as he stared out the window. I watched him in my rearview mirror, a surprising lump rising in my throat. The freckle-faced mensch made it sound like he was simply letting me off the hook. If I had ever embarrassed him, he wasn’t about to admit it.
“Oh,” he suddenly remembered, “And can you start giving me Lunchables? Everybody gets those.”
“I want Lunchables!” Chimed in his disoriented sister, waking from her nap. The lump dissolved as I started in on my standard nutrition lecture.
Today that little boy is one semester away from his college graduation, and his kid sister is packing to attend freshman orientation. She asked if I’d send her care packages next year. Just wait until she sees the notes.