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Surviving the "Goodbye Year" and Sending Your Child Off to College

High school Senior Year survival guide for moms

Last year, my world turned upside down. Why? Because it was my son’s senior year in high school. I know… that’s not anything unexpected. Every child, if life goes as expected, reaches this joyous milestone.

But this hands on mama was not prepared for what this year would bring. There are some unexpected side affects you may experience as you navigate your child's final K-12 year. Just know you’re not alone and you will get through this....eventually.

1. You’ll cry - a lot!

It started the day of my son’s 18th birthday. My son and I were headed to the store, talking about college options, having a good ole time – then it happened. All of a sudden my eyes began to swell. I felt a lump in my throat. Before I knew it, I had burst into tears!

I had to pull over because the tears blurred my vision so badly. My son was just as surprised as I was, “Please don’t cry Mom”. I tried to stop it, but I couldn’t. I was eventually able to pull myself together long enough to mumble an, “I’m ok”.

Later, I explained to my “baby” that I'd had a flashback of him as an actual baby and was overcome by how fast time had flown. He knows I’m emotional, so he wasn’t too surprised by my dramatic display. Still, it was a mess! It came unexpectedly and it took me by surprise. That was the first time, but it wasn’t the last. I was a ball of sobbing nerves his entire senior year.

2. You’ll find out what you’re made of

When something isn’t going quite the way I’d expect it to, I reflect. I reflect on what I’m doing to make the situation that way or what lessons I might need to learn. In this situation everything was changing. I knew it, I felt it, and I dreaded it. But instead of fighting it, I decided to roll with it. I didn’t judge myself for crying and I didn’t allow anyone else to either.

I just rode the wave of ups and downs and let it be. I cried, I celebrated, and I reminisced about all the fun adventures from my son’s childhood.

And on graduation day, I didn’t cry at all. I suppose I had emptied my tear ducts by that point. But maybe I was just ready. I had flushed out all my feelings and I was ready. I was proud of my son’s accomplishments and able to simply enjoy the day.

3. You’ll learn to let go

This was probably my most difficult task. I trust my kid. I’ve taught him to think for himself and use his resources. But still, the world is a crazy place sometimes. I want to be the mama bear - protecting my son wherever he goes. But I know he’s an adult - sorta - and he’s capable. So for his sake (and mine), I’ve learned to let go. I’m still there when he needs me to be, but I’ve backed off to allow him room to grow into the amazing man I know he’s going to be.

4. You'll be ok

My son is a freshman in college now. I see him growing and using the skills I spent the last two decades teaching him. He's thriving - making new friends and learning a lot about the world. He's happy and I'm happy for him.

An unexpected result of my son's journey to college is that I have more time to explore the things that I like to do. I've always been intentional about doing things that make me happy, but now I'm doing that even more and I love it!

Senior Year Moms

The best lesson I learned from all of this is that although some things will change .... the most important things (like my close relationship with my son) will always remain the same.

Ps. While writing this - I’m crying again ...oh well, time to ride the wave again - Weeeeeee!


This post was written by Cee White, author of the author of the award winning book: "The Path to Success for Your Child", where she shares over 20 years of experience as an educator, mother and military spouse to help parents become informed advocates to help their children succeed.