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Life Milestone: Expat Graduation

I know, I know.

You’re thinking ‘how can this hip, happening blogger possibly be old enough to have a child graduating from high school?!?’

I think the same thing myself. (Although usually it’s ‘how can I be THAT old??’)

Let’s just say I was unusually youthful (not) when I had Son, and leave it at that. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Those of you who know my actual age may remain silent, thank you very much. I’m just saying.

Seriously, for several months now I’ve been looking forward to Son’s graduation from high school with trepidation, pride, amazement, (a little) fear, excitement, (a touch of) sadness, nostalgia, (an ounce of) panic.

All of these conflicting emotions, and probably a few more I’ve forgotten. Graduation is a major rite of passage, a milestone in life.

When did he get to be so old? He’s been a young man for quite some time, yet who decided he’s ready to fly from the family nest?

He’s matured so much over the past year, indeed the past two years we’ve lived here in Nederland. I’d wondered how he’d do, moving over for his last two years of high school. Becoming an expat.

I needn’t have worried. He weathered the transition well, rode out the bumpy bits and settled in to a life, school and friends he has come to love. He has learned to travel well, experience other cultures, celebrate the differences as well as the similarities, seize the day.

Yet I don’t recall getting the memo that says my oldest (my baby) is all set to head off to university at the end of the summer. Diploma, perhaps. Memo? No.

His school is excellent at celebrating milestones, and graduation was no exception.

The senior class is a tight-knit bunch. Sure, there are small groups and bigger groups and favored friends, but lots of overlap and movement through and among the various groups. All are accepted as they are.

Honestly there are no ‘cliques’ (in the ugly sense of the word) or people left out. They are friendly and inclusive, tolerant and genuinely celebrate each other’s quirks, personalities and interests.

When your student body comes from all over the world, having lived all over the world, that is often the case. Not always, of course, but fortunately it is here. The seniors had all sorts of experiences, some orchestrated but many which were not, that helped bond them together.

Even the small number who arrived here for their senior year (yes, it does happen; not everyone gets a choice these days) were welcomed, pulled in and made a part of things very quickly. They probably thanked their lucky stars to have landed in a place where this is the way, because I know that I sure have.

There are wonderful opportunities in living abroad, outside one’s ‘home’ culture. But there are also challenges as well. Comings and goings, learning to jump in and to say goodbye well, don’t always get easier with time and practice. Fortunately technology allows for staying in touch, keeping the connections, sharing the memories and helping each other as they go on to enter newer worlds.

So as I dressed for the ceremony, drove my parents and family to the school, took photos beforehand, sat waiting patiently for it to start, made small talk with other parents, and finally watched the seniors process in and up to the stage, I reminisced.

The pregnancy test, morning sickness, hearing his heartbeat for the first time, the ultrasound photo. Son at birth, three days old, three months, three years. Toddler, young boy, adolescent ‘tween’, young teen, young man.

I kept murmuring to Husband ‘How can he be this old? Seems like yesterday he was just a boy.’ He answered that Son hadn’t been a little boy for years.

I’m proud of the fact that I held it together, didn’t embarrass him, didn’t cry. My heart swelled when he strode across the stage to receive his diploma, tall and square-shouldered. His face lit up with a smile and sense of accomplishment.

The lump was in my throat. My little boy. This amazing young man.

I was fine until they did the slide show, with a baby picture of each graduate next to a photo of them in their cap and gown. Then I lost it, just a little bit, as the tears came to my eyes.

I am so very proud of this wonderful, smart, funny, loving, easygoing, knowledgeable, inquisitive, determined, helpful, hardworking, well-rounded person Son has become.

The heart swelled with pride, lump in my throat, tears in my eyes – they cannot begin to measure my love for him. I wish him good luck and God speed, love and laughter and friendship and hope, fair winds and fair sails, perseverance in the good and less than good times ahead. Most of all, I wish him the world.

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