Graduation caps thrown in the air

Single Mom Slice of Life:
The Road To Raising A High School Graduate

I DID IT! FOR THE SECOND TIME IN MY LIFE – I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL! Ok… my kid did. But I helped! A lot! Let’s not kid ourselves – it’s been a battle. An uphill, lecture-filled, hair-pulling, insanity-endangering four years, and Nick got upset every once in a while too.

I won’t lie – graduation day was bittersweet. More bitter than sweet because, please remember, he’s 18. Have you met an 18 year old boy/man? Here is a little of what was going on:

There was the fact that he had decided to leave for his 8-week summer vacation with his dad – literally from the graduation site. Yep. Sure did. This of course meant that he would be out of the state when his only brother also graduated 8th grade a mere two days later.

Then there was the fact that he had lost his wallet that morning – something he needed to be allowed into the venue to prove he was eligible for graduation. Hell hath no fury like a panicking 18 year old. We spent two days scrubbing the house and only twenty minutes to tear it all up. Where was the wallet? Oh – in the pants he had worn the night before. Sigh.

Related: Our Story Begins: Dads and Daughters… Did I Set the Bar Too High?

And who could forget the all important conversation where Nick admitted that yes, his brother and I helped him while he had been hurt, that I had all but gone to school with him (oh wait – yes I did), that we had been the tight-knit group of 3 for over ten years, but his dad is his family, and that was who he wanted to celebrate with.

So – ok – good. At least I hadn’t sacrificed and suffered through the last 18 years for nothing.

I was over it all: the drama, the stress, the nail-biting stress of waiting until the day before to find out if the graduation was a go or not (because, yes, it was that close). Through what has arguably been the most stressful week of my parenting career, I felt like I was falling apart, like I had literally run out of emotional, mental, and physical strength. I ended up on a therapist’s couch.

My kid had driven me to seek professional help. Then again, didn’t we all know it was going to happen at some point? I won’t lie – it was comforting to her say, “Believe me, it’s not you. I once packed up my 19 year old daughter and told her ‘best of luck’, and I remind you, I do this for a living!”

Another friend explained, “You’re a single mom. It doesn’t make it right, but as the son of a single mom, trust me, there is no one lower on the totem pole than you. But, in a few years, there will be no one he wants to apologize to more than you.”

Another parent, the mom of an autistic child had the most sobering point of view. “Yes, Nick’s a butt right now. But, he’s walking across the stage. I would pay money to see my son do what your son is about to do, and I’ll never have that chance.”

A few hours later, as I stood, clapping as his name was called, I cried. Part of it was hurt. I still kind of felt like I had been robbed of a day I had pushed him hard for. I felt like I had failed my second son because his brother clearly didn’t place a value on family togetherness and support.

Related: Live, Love, Blend: Why My Sister and I Dropped the ‘Step’ from ‘Step-Sisters’

I felt like… a survivor. Wait. What?

This really was my day. I have sacrificed, pushed. I have attended high school twice in my life. I have taught, shown, proven, researched, lectured and fought the last four years to get him to this point. He could do with the rest of the day what he wanted to. But after the last thirteen years, standing in a sea of thousands of people, watching hundreds of kids waiting to get their diplomas – that single man/boy was my paycheck.

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My job as his parent will never end, but my role as his day-to-day warden had ended. His name was called by a Vice Principal. He walked across the stage. He took his diploma. He shook the Principal’s hand. And in that moment, no matter what his attitude had been, I was glad that I didn’t give up. Because if I had, I would have missed it all.

So – that was my almost not so special special day. What about you? Was it a battle to get to that day? Has it been a battle getting there? How will you choose to view it? Do you think it’s okay to make it (at least a little) all about you?