We are in the midst of what I believe is often one of the more reflective times of year for many folks, when high schoolers and college students all across the country are graduating.
I say it’s a reflective time because most parents – and even grandparents and uncles and aunts and other adults who played a role in raising the graduates – often think of all those years that have gone by, of holding that graduate 17 or 22 or 25 years ago, when he or she was just a baby. Memories of raising the little one, of their first day of school, of moving from elementary school to middle, and then to high school, often come flooding back.
As a parent I think I can speak for most of us in saying we swell with pride, we’re filled with happiness, but we also have a little twinge of sadness for the days and years that are gone, for the times when we could pick up our little girl or little guy and carry them around or make their day simply by kicking a ball around the yard with them.
Some of us also find our minds traveling even further back at this time of year, recalling our own school days, our own graduations, those times when we were young and ready to take on the world. Of course, those recollections are sometimes colored with the real-life experiences of the years passing by, of learning our youthful hopes were, at times, simply unrealistic pie-in-the-sky dreams, that the world can be, at times, difficult and even cruel.
I’ve seen writers at this time of year try to warn young people who are graduating, try to temper their dreams and wide-eyed view of the world, attempt to explain to them why they will never reach those goals. I’ve even seen parents try to set their kids straight by telling them their goals are out of reach, they should just be happy with what they have and not try to reach for too much.
I know those messages are often delivered with the belief the person imparting the so-called wisdom is being kind, trying to keep the young graduate from setting herself or himself up for later disappointment.
But I think people who do that really have it all wrong.
I’ve had the great joy of witnessing quite a few graduations in my family in recent years. This year alone, my oldest received her master’s, my next child earned her undergraduate degree, and my third oldest secured his associate’s degree.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a cynic, but I’m definitely a realist when it comes to life. My kids have picked up a bit of that from me over the years, so I wouldn’t call them bright-eyed and naive. But they all, even the two younger ones who didn’t graduate from anything this year, have hopes and dreams and ideas about where they want to go in life.
Some of those dreams might be unrealistic, some might be beyond their reach, but I’m not going to tell them that. I see how they look to the future, how they think about what next week or next year might bring and I find myself wanting them to pursue those dreams. I want them to go after everything they want in life, and I don’t need to be sitting here, at this key milestone in their lives, preaching to them about the hard roads that can lie ahead.
Sure, they’re going to fall short at times. They might have some bumps along the way, they might learn how cruel some parts of the world can be. Hopefully I’ve played a role in helping them develop the skills to deal with that, to take the bad while still pursuing the good. And I like to think I’ll be around for a long time yet, to offer a little guidance, some support, when they need it through the years.
But now, at this moment, my job — and I hope every parent and grandparent believes this — is to stand there, be a proud parent, and support my kids’ dreams. The hard life lessons can wait.
And maybe, just maybe, they will reach all those lofty dreams.
John is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at 415-4701.