Dear Mom of a New Senior-
This will be one of the biggest years of your life. I just finished it and can now see what I didn’t know. Mostly, this year will feel like planning a big wedding, with celebrations for ten months straight. Then, right after the big event, you prepare for the divorce. The only way to be successful in the next season is independence.
It’s tricky—and that’s without the expense or just how busy you are.
So, here’s a tip for each month—August until May.
It’s Not about You.
Senior year begins with mixed emotions. My instinct was to remember my own senior year. Looking back, this didn’t help me or Catie very much. Senior is the curve from childhood and adulthood. You’re going to have all the feelings watching your child make that transition. Commiserate with your senior-mama friends and don’t let your worries become a burden for your senior.
Welcome to the party. Senior Sunrise. Senior-Only Parking. Senior Banquets. Pace yourself with your senior hype, mama. (A couple pictures is enough.) This year is a marathon. Hold it loosely first semester and save most of your enthusiasm for April and May, when your calendar has three senior events a week on it.
Talk about Budgets.
This year is so expensive. I wish we had set-up rules about how much we were willing to spend. Give a firm budget to avoid a whole bunch of discussion (tension) about the appropriate cost of homecoming, trips, the grad party, etc. If you don’t, every purchase becomes a negotiation and that’s stress you don’t need.
Prepare for the College Decision.
By now, most seniors are figuring out their next step after graduation. I teach juniors and seniors and their heads are swimming with pros and cons about each college. They’re constantly talking about cost, distance, campus culture, friends, weather, parents’ alma mater, major, and dating. Add to that post-2022 factors (like how the campus handled COVID and if they require an ACT score), and the college decision feels overwhelming. Listen, visit campuses, and give your senior lots of grace to make the best decision for them.
Ponder this in Your Heart, Mama.
It’s the last Christmas before your family changes and that feels heavy to you. But—it’s also a festive time with lots of senior celebrations and dorm-ready gifts. Our family had parties and traveled—but I took lots of pictures and savored the way it felt to be together as our family of six. Our best moments were when we piled on the couch to watch Elf and eat pancakes.
Keep Your Door Open
That part about senior year that feels like planning a wedding that ends in a divorce? Your senior feels it, too. In second semester, everyone talks about being independent. Some days she’s ready for that, and other days she’s terrified. The best decision I made was to be available. I said no to projects and kept my door open so I could listen to the big feelings happening to my girl.
Do you love banquets, ceremonies, and parties? You’re about to. Go to all of them. I learned the hard way when I missed a couple and saw it hurt my daughter’s feelings. Show up. Good news: all the other parents are dazed too so you don’t even have to wear lipstick.
Be the Rock.
The end is near. Things get weird the last three months. Universities announce acceptances and so begins the flurry of post-grad plans. Every senior deals with the grief and excitement of this differently. Couples break up. Friends fight or get even closer. Your senior will freak out a bit during the last half of this semester. Good students give up on grades. Motivation is very low. Your senior will feel like nothing matters. Be the parent here and keep the pressure on to finish strong.
You Are Not as Old as You Feel.
It’s not only that your kid is growing up, it’s that you realize you’re changing also. Your teen’s new independence moves you into a new season and it will jar you. As you pass from Authority into Spectator, you’ll start to feel like your own mother. Relax. In a couple months, you’ll feel more like yourself and might even enjoy the quiet months after the storm of senior year.
Celebrate the Extraordinary.
It’s all going to feel very surreal, okay? You can’t prepare for the shock of what’s about to happen so you just have to live in the moment. You won’t remember a lot of it anyway. A few surreal moments I do remember… waking Catie up for her last day of school ever and bursting into tears… attending FOUR grad parties (including Catie’s and our Godson’s) on the same day…the moment Pomp & Circumstance started the seniors processed in… the humbling outpouring of love from friends and family and watching Catie open the sweetest grad cards and gifts.
It’s all extraordinary. And really hard. Stay on your knees, senior mamas, and get ready for the year of your life.
P.S. Two more reminders: I tried to text Catie prayers every day and forgot a lot of days. I wish I would have done better at this. Also, in the end, you’ll fight about thank-you notes. Pick this battle and make your graduate write them immediately or you’ll end up yelling at each other in August about why she never finished them.