When my daughter graduated high school last year, I did all the traditional things that parents do for their graduates. I cried when I took her for her senior portraits and cried again when the prints arrived. We invited family to the graduation ceremony and cheered wildly for her as she crossed the stage. And we threw a big ol’ party, where she got to be center stage just before she left for college. Occasionally, when she would tire of the hoopla, I would have to explain that all the markings of this passage were as much for me as they were for her. I loved that she was getting all the accolades — rightfully so — but as I would joke with her, it was really all about her dad and me.
It’s no mean feat to usher a kid through their high school graduation. Ask any parent what the last 18 years or so have been like, and they’ll speak of the joys — and then, if they’re honest, they’ll also speak of the unending worry, the daunting doubt, and the various struggles. Not that I wouldn’t do every bit of it again. In fact, I’d love to do it again, knowing what I know now — knowing that it would all turn out ok.
This is why I really believe that when we celebrate a graduation, it’s the mommies and daddies who should take center stage in our thoughts for a few moments so they can be honored. This is why I am bringing a bouquet of flowers to my best friend, Janet, today as she throws her son his graduation party.
I was there the day Owen was born. I’d gotten a call around 10:00 pm from Janet’s husband, George, who said “She’s in labor. We’re heading to the hospital, but you can wait until morning.” I wasn’t going to wait. I got in the car right away.
Being on the other side of a birth story is an amazing place to be. As a labor coach (what else would I have been?), I saw the strength and courage — the intensity and love in labor. My own daughter was a year old at the time, but if I had experienced the fog of labor for my own child’s birth, the wonder of birth and motherhood came into such clear focus for me the night we welcomed that little guy into the world. This was miraculous stuff!
Today is that baby’s graduation party. He’s now 18 years old, heading off to college in the fall. Of course Owen, the high school graduate, will take center stage. But I will make sure that his parents know that they are the heroes of his story — without them, the possibilities would have been impossibly challenging. Of course, their worry, doubts, and struggles are probably not over — but I hope they will take a moment to breathe in the joy of success. Their own — as well as their son’s.