It's been 362 days since we watched our youngest walk across the stage at graduation. Anyone who knows me watched me count down nearly his entire senior year. I know exactly what some of my friends are going through. The baby is graduating, what will they do now?
After many tears and hundreds of pictures that day, I realized one thing. That was the day we were waiting for. We did what we could to raise him (and his brother before him) to be a good kid. Work hard in school and he would be rewarded with a high GPA and scholarships to college. Work hard in football and he would be rewarded with kudos on the field and an all conference nod and then have the opportunity to continue playing the sport he loves in college. Work hard at your job and they will ask you to come back through college.
I struggled five years ago when our oldest was graduating high school. It was such a surreal moment. That kid you raised from birth was now an adult and you had to hope that you did everything (well most everything) right. You know what I mean. You have to hope you didn't raise them to be assholes...because, frankly, the world needs less assholes and more kids that are polite to their elders, hold doors for people when they walk through first, and know how to say please and thank you.
Last year, when our youngest graduated, I had an easier time. It doesn't mean it meant less for him, it just means that we had been through it and knew what to expect. So many friends have their oldest graduating this weekend, and I can see the panic in their posts. The others that have been through it take it in stride.
After summer when our oldest headed back to school for one last semester, and our youngest headed to his first year at college, everything hit me like a ton of bricks. It was just me and my husband for the first time in 23 years. Having been so involved with not only our kids schooling, but their sports, we found ourselves not knowing what to do. We were so involved with both, to me it felt like a little part of us died. That's pretty sad when you think about it. We spent the majority of ten years involved in the football programs they were part of. I spent countless hours, days, weeks, and months, planning, plotting and executing, along with some of my favorite people. I've taken tens of thousands of pictures not only of my boys playing football, but baseball and track as well. I've taken pictures of kids that I could recognize when in full gear, but when they walk down the sidewalk in street clothes, I might not know who they are. I made many, many friends, and reconnected with some I hadn't seen since high school. Thankfully, last summer I was asked to still be involved in the sport I so love.
I often wondered why parents who no longer had kids in programs stuck around and helped out. It was a foreign concept to me until I no longer had kids in the program. Those programs and school become your life. You spend all of your energy jockeying your kids from school to practice to games to sleepovers. You handle snack days. You share interests with dozens of other parents. You sit in the stands and get excited when someone who isn't your kid throws the winning touchdown or hits one out of the park, because your kid is part of the team. You beam with pride when fans are screaming your kids name when they score the winning touchdown or tackles two lineman to have the game turn in your favor after a linebacker tackles the QB and causes a fumble. There is such a passion that parents hold for their kids teams, and when it's over, it's humbling.
The one thing I wasn't prepared for was losing friends. You get so used to seeing people day after day at practice, or week after week at games, and then life gets in the way and you lose touch. Sure there is Facebook and you can see what they are doing or what their kids are doing, but it isn't the same. I miss it. I miss them. Life moves on.