I’m sitting in the back row of the church holding back tears of joy and grief, all knotted up and stuck in the middle of my throat. Our baby girl is graduating this weekend. She is ready. How could we be here already?! I feel like we’ve just finished a marathon and these last two years were the hardest miles, but we made it. I’m tired and overwhelmed with gratitude to be here, to have all these graduation traditions, celebrations and ceremonies return for all of these kids and families who have weathered this storm through uncertainty and fear. I wasn’t sure we would be here today, in person, if and how we would celebrate. But today we are here, attending the first of many celebrations this weekend – the family Baccalaureate Mass – a tradition for our school to bless seniors as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Sunday she will walk and accept her high school diploma.
I look around the room at the families who’ve walked this journey with us for seven years together, a sea of blue and orange gowns in the center of this church surrounded by friends, family, and faculty. These children have made a butterfly transformation into adults. It is magnificent. Despite the adversity and uncertainty of a pandemic, remote school, missed sports, tumultuous news cycles, and mental health challenges, they made it. Together, these families in this room guided them on this journey – all with their own paths, struggles, mistakes, battles, and uncertainties – all doing their best to raise good humans in this uncertain time of change. It is bittersweet.
Celebrating two big graduation milestones
This is a big year for the Hartzells. My husband and I are graduating two this year – our oldest off to college and our youngest through the tumultuous season of middle school in the middle of a pandemic and on to high school. Both feel big and triumphant in their own way. It has not been easy. There has been a lot of change and each has had challenges these last two years – all of our energy going into keeping their spirits up and confidence strong, despite setbacks and challenges. Like many families this year celebrating graduation milestones, we are tired from the race, but we are here.
At graduation, the joyful smiles on the faces of our girls are forever imprinted on my mind and heart. All those feelings – all wrapped like a big ball of multi-colored yarn – feelings of grief of a season complete, the joy and excitement of a new season beginning, and the sense of pride and accomplishment to make it to this finish line and on to the next.
- Celebrate the wins. When they handed you that baby, you both looked at each other and said WTF! How does this work? You figured it out. One diaper, one step, one teenage drive, one college application at a time. Celebrate these wins, they are big.
- Give yourself grace. You will make mistakes, plenty of them. Mistakes are how we learn, grow and develop. You tell your kids that mistakes are how we learn -why doesn’t the same rule apply to you? Perfection is not the goal, progress is.
- Pick your own path. Comparison is the thief of joy and you will make yourself miserable if you focus on what everyone else is doing, judging others for not doing enough, watching the clock, and worrying that you are not doing enough. You will wander – a lot – down your own path in your work, marriage, with your kids, friends, and communities. You will find your way.
- Don’t be afraid to say, “That’s not how we do it in our family.” There will be many times when you will be tested when other families make different choices. We are not all supposed to do things the same way. Stand your ground. This is how they begin to learn to be independent thinkers and chart their own course.
- Trust your gut. It is always right. Always.
- Slowly release your grip. You can’t white knuckle your way through this every day. Letting go is one of the hardest parts of this parenting journey, but a necessary step to give them wings and fly.
- Lean into your marriage. The most precious partner on this journey will be with you on the other side of this parenting season. Put in the work daily, weekly and each year to continue to invest and grow together in the next season. Give each other grace. Take that trip together, go for a walk.
- Find your people. Friendships will come and go in every season. Enjoy them for the gift they give you in that season and continue to invest in finding people that lift you up and cheer you on in the next season. Keep your people that endure close.
- Build trust and momentum. This is our family mantra. Show up, do the work, press on to chase your own dreams while investing in your family. Trust that God/your faith is leading you on your own path, plan, and purpose – even if you can’t see what is on the other side. Keep the momentum moving forward, one step at a time.
- Lean into your faith. You will get tired, frustrated, feel lost, and things won’t go as planned. Pray on it, meditate, and release it. See #9.
- You are not lost. This new season ahead of you feels a bit scary. You got this. You are not lost, only finding your way to the beginning of something new and beautiful – like these beautiful butterfly children in front of you.
Most of all, seek adventure in all you do.
In this with you mamas,