You Don't Graduate from Family
They kids won't be any further away than love can reach
We have nearly passed through the season of graduations. It’s an emotional time. We have four children and have had four high school graduations and one college graduation. Jan and I get tearful each and every time one of our children moves into a new phase of life. After all, it was only last year we were tucking them in bed in their pajamas, right? Well, no, but it sure feels that way.
Over the years we have learned a lot about the process. And one of the most important lessons of all is that if you love your children, if you have a connection with them, graduation is just a phase. They may go away to school, they may change states, but the relationship remains. And more frequently than you might expect, in ways that can seem surprising, they come back to you.
I have had many conversations with friends, pensive and reflective about their kids’ graduations. They’ll say things like ‘I can’t believe it’s almost over,’ or ‘it’s hard to believe they’ll be gone after all of these years!’
I look at them, smile, and say ‘don’t worry, they’ll be back.’
And it’s largely true. But is it any wonder? Formal educations and graduations are pretty new in the long span of history. So is routinely moving away from all of the people and places you love. What’s not new? Family, friends, homes and connections. These are deep, like tribe or pack.
So often I’ve seen young people move away, excited at the prospect of throwing off the old and putting on the new. And good for them! It’s appropriate to try new things and places! But at some point, they long for those deeply instantiated connections, formed over a lifetime. They have to remember that it isn’t wrong, it isn’t weakness or failure to long for heart and home, ‘kith and kin.’ It’s natural and healthy.
It is this same reality that should inform us parents, and reassure us, as our progeny leave schools or training programs and go forth into the world. It isn’t so much that they leave us, as that they take us, they take family lessons and memories, with them to new parts of the world, new situations and into their interactions with new people. Some of whom, of course, they bring back with them and make part of the group as spouses. Occasionally they come back and live across the street! Or we go to where they are, moving family whole cloth.
In the end, graduations come and graduations go.
But you can’t graduate from family.
Cry away, dear friends. As long as you remember that the kids aren’t going any further than the distance that love can reach.