The Graduation Road Less Traveled

Today is a bittersweet day for me and my family.  My youngest child will be walking across the stage and receiving his high school diploma.  What is so significant to me about this is how he got to this place and time—all of the obstacles he overcame, and how he did it his way.

My son forged his own path to graduation.  It wasn’t the same journey as his brother four years earlier, or the way that I had envisioned it over the years.

Like the ending line in the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, my son took the road less traveled.  And in so doing, he was a pioneer of the spirit.

Senior portrait

My son, a pioneer of the spirit.

Following in his Brother’s Footsteps

In parenting our only other child, his older brother, we got caught up in the competitive race for the coveted prize of his attendance at one of the best engineering schools in the country.  Thankfully God had other plans.

Being our first born child, we didn’t know what to expect.  When we noticed his giftedness at a very early age, we sought and were granted a waiver to put him in Kindergarten a year earlier than his peers.  He ended up settling into the gifted program and taking a rigorous AP and honors course load throughout school.  Those choices led him to a few different schools in the district, not our neighborhood school.

When our youngest child entered the school system, we made the tough decision to place him in the elementary school where his brother attended.  He also followed his brother into the same extracurricular activities: baseball, piano, and chess.  He eventually dropped out of those and developed his love for music by playing the flute, saxophone, and drums.

Once his brother went on to junior high, my youngest son switched schools and attended the school in our neighborhood.  It wasn’t long after that we noticed his school difficulties surface.  I was not overly concerned, but couldn’t help but wonder, is there something else going on here?  It was unfair to compare him to his older brother, and I thought his occasional struggles were more ‘normal.’  Things got worse for him in junior high.

When it came time to go to high school, we decided to check out several of the high schools in the district.  He wasn’t interested in the high school his brother attended.  The large high school that most students in the neighborhood attended didn’t excite him either.

We attributed some of his school problems with lack of motivation.  So we felt it would be better for him to be in a school with smaller classes and a learning environment that more closely matched his interests.  A new school had opened up in the district and was accepting students on a lottery basis.  This school was specifically geared to a STEM based education (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics).  Living in the high tech corridor of the Seattle Eastside, this was a magnet for local kids, as was proven by the standing room only audience at the information night for this new school.

School Pioneers

Our son was accepted into the STEM school and started in the fall.  It was also at this time that the school district was converting middle schools to junior high schools and all high schools to a 4-year format.  The STEM school was launched with incoming freshmen and sophomore classes.  My son would be in the first graduating class of the school—the class of 2015!

An educational pioneer and future graduate in the class of 2015 at his 2002 pre-school graduation.

An educational pioneer and future graduate in the class of 2015 at his 2002 pre-school graduation.

These new students were educational pioneers in the district and had to endure some growing pains in the process.  For example, while the school building was still under construction the first semester, the school was co-located on the campus of the big neighborhood high school.

It was hard for the students and the school community to define its own culture and identity.  With the school half completed, after the Christmas holiday break, the students and faculty moved into their brand new campus and started to create their own academic community.

The course load was rigorous, much like the academic classes that his brother took in high school.  From our earliest meetings with the school administration, we and other parents were assured there would be other less rigorous class options for students.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  My son struggled to make it through the first quarter of his sophomore year.  We heard stories of kids dropping out of the school and returning to their neighborhood high schools.

Despite my son’s recent diagnosis with ADHD, he wanted to be at this school, and was determined to make it work.  There were times along the journey that we had conversations about transferring to another school.

It was a painful decision for all of us.  When does the parent have the final say?  How do you know what is best for your child?  Each time he came back to his desire to stay, accepting that it would be a challenge.

During a recent conversation with my son about his tenure at this school, I asked him if he had to do it all over again what he would do.  He acknowledged that going to his neighborhood high school would’ve been a lot easier for him.  But he didn’t miss a beat in saying that the STEM school was good for his character development.  He wasn’t wrapped up in his GPA or the college competition.  He was content that he graduated, made good friends, and was learning more about his abilities.

A Graduation Homecoming

I’m not going to apologize for using my blog to publish a bit about the story of my son’s journey to graduation.  I see it as a major milestone in his life.  My husband and I are both proud of him, like any parent is of their graduating senior.  It is particularly poignant to me because it feels like a joint effort.  I know many of my friends and family have prayed for him and us during his high school years.  Those prayers made a difference in getting us to this point.  (Thank you!  You know who you are!)

What I haven’t lost sight of in the process is where his graduation ceremony will take place tonight.  It’s not at the school.  They don’t have the space for this type of event.  The graduation will be held at our church.  It was in this same church that my son learned about Jesus, accepted Christ as His Savior, was baptized, and has attended all his life.

It adds to the bittersweet nature of the event for me.  And it serves as a reminder that the Lord has been at my son’s side the entire time.

My son is a Pioneer.

He is a STEM Scholar.

He is unique, gifted, and talented in many ways.

He found his own way.  He took the road less traveled to do it.  To quote Robert Frost again:

…and that has made all the difference.

I’m grateful he did.  Congratulations Son!

My son, the flutist, taking the road less traveled.

My son, the flutist, taking the road less traveled.

A Letter on Leaving the Nest

For the parents whose children have recently left the nest…and to their children as well.

My Book About Me

Journeys To Mother Love

He’s gone…my firstborn child graduated from college last month.  Then we packed up his belongings and settled him into an apartment 500 miles from home.

The last several weeks have been a frenzy of activity, including his 21st birthday.  I had glimpses of the emotion that I knew would come.  But none was as surprising as the wave that hit me when my son returned a letter to me I had written him when he left for college almost four years ago.

We were cleaning out his room, sorting what to take with him, what to keep at home, and what to get rid of.  He isn’t the sentimental type and asked me if I wanted to keep the letter. Naturally I agreed. While his focus and attention remained on sorting his belongings, I snuck away to read the letter…and the tears came.

I was surprised by the things I…

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I borrowed the title for this post from the 1969 song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.  Not that the Rolling Stones are a source of spiritual wisdom or Godly counsel, but these words are in line with scripture.  The song goes on to say “but if you try sometimes, you might find, you’ll get what you need.”

Click above image to view concert performance of this song by the Rolling Stones.

Click above image to view concert performance of this song by the Rolling Stones.

I have one simple example that has been running through my mind a lot these days as we transitioned our son Evan from college graduate to gainful employment 500 miles and two states away from home.  It started when he was a senior in high school going through the daunting college admission process.

Playing the College Game

Evan had taken a very challenging schedule of AP classes throughout high school.  Before that he attended the full-time gifted program offered in our school district.  It was a place ripe with talk and preparations for students to attend the top colleges in the nation.

We, and my son, bought into that dream until just before the first colleges started to send out their admission decisions.  We knew the odds were not necessarily in his favor, but we also knew how bright he was.  After much prayer, I started to have an inner sense that he may not get accepted.

usnewsbestcolleges2012_360_191God’s Ways are Higher

The morning before the first decisions were to be posted online, my devotional reading was based on Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I knew God was preparing me for the rejection, which in turn helped me to provide guidance and encouragement to my son.  The rejections and waitlist letters came one after the other.  It was a difficult time for him, and for us.  There was much disappointment.

IMG_8136Four years later, with the clarity of time and perspective, we can see how God turned that heartache into a huge blessing for my son.  It started with an award of a scholarship and direct admittance into the department that he ended up majoring in earlier this month.  That major was not something he had previously considered as a career.  Yet this week he started a full-time position in his chosen field at one of the top companies in the computer chip industry.

A Lesson in Trusting God

Shortly after these events happened and while still in high school, Evan submitted an essay for a scholarship with the writing prompt of ‘trust.’  His essay quoted Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  While he wasn’t awarded that scholarship, his essay did reflect a humbling posture and ability to move on with a new sense of purpose.

I thank God that Evan didn’t get what ‘we’ wanted for him.  Instead our son got the educational opportunities he needed to succeed.  He (we) also got a valuable lesson in seeking God’s will and trusting Him.  He learned firsthand that the Lord provides us with what we need, and not necessarily what we want (from Matthew 6:25-34, not the Rolling Stones).  I hope and pray he carries that lesson with him as he launches into this new season of adulthood.

Congratulations Evan and to the Class of 2014!

Congratulations Evan and to the Class of 2014!

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

 

When it’s Time to Let go of Our Children

There’s a pain in my heart—not just figuratively, but physically too.  My first-born child is moving away after he graduates from college next month.  I’ve known for a few months, but it hit me in a new way recently—something I wasn’t prepared for.

moving-outEaster Family Time

We had a wonderful time on Easter with my son home from college for the day.  We went to church together as a family.  We shared our meals together.  We talked on and off during the day about his post-graduation moving plans—buying a car, renting a moving van, and looking at apartments online.

It was all very official and business-like.  The project manager in me was running wild thinking of all the tasks to do before the official moving day.

While my husband was taking our son back to school, I tucked our other son into bed.  We reflected on his older brother’s eminent departure.  That was when it hit me—and the pain started.  It is an uneasiness that hovers over my heart and tells me to pay attention to what my body is trying to say.  It was the first signs of my need to let go.

Living in Uncharted Territory

I’ve lately felt like I am living my life in uncharted territory.  My parents both passed away in recent years, more than forty years after their divorce.  More than that though is because I didn’t get much guidance from them in my formative years.  I was never close to them and my teenage years were rather rebellious.  I never really knew what it was like to live in a normal home with two loving parents.

My alma mater

My alma mater

When I left for college at the tender age of seventeen, I didn’t give my mother’s feelings much thought.  I just wanted to be out on my own and away from my dysfunctional home environment—one that included an alcoholic stepfather and an unstable and mentally ill mother.

The only extended return home from school was for the holidays my freshman year.  There was a fire in my bedroom while I was away at college that first semester.  The belongings I left at home were ruined.  It was a startling homecoming gift.  That was the final straw for me.  Goodbye, family!

Turning the Tables

Now the tables are turned.  My son is moving away—not just to the university in the city 25 minutes away.  He is moving out of state—a short one-hour flight or eight-hour road trip by car.  We are packing up his belongings and saying goodbye.  He is starting his own life in another state—without any friends or family nearby.

I know our present home environment doesn’t compare to the chaos and emotional unrest that I experienced in my youth.  But I also know what it is like to be young and ready to leave the nest.

My son is ready.  He is mature.  He has done well in school.  We are very proud of him.

heart let goLetting Go Well

As my heart ached on that evening, I also wondered what it was like for my mother when I left home.  Did she care?  Did she yearn for me?  She wrote me lots of letters while at college.  I didn’t appreciate those either.

It is hard to look at myself with this new lens—the one who is letting go of her first-born child.  I don’t like what I see—how I treated my mother.

I want to let go well.  I don’t want to be like my mother.  I don’t want to be a clingy mom either.  Like I said, I am living in uncharted territory.  I don’t have the answers, but I do recognize the warning signs.

It is time to let go again.

This post is shared with Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays.

At Nineteen

My oldest child turned nineteen a few days ago.  I know it sounds cliché, but I wonder where the time has gone. 
Evan is finishing up his sophomore year of college and celebrated his second birthday away from home last week.  Prior to his moving on campus, his birthday was a day we would always do something special for.  Over the years, we would usually go out for a family dinner on his birthday and have a party for him most years too. 
I vividly remember each one because I made a small scrapbook for him of each of his birthdays from the day he was born to his 17th birthday.  The scrapbook was my gift to him for his 18th birthday—the first one away from home.  As our firstborn, we provided some pretty elaborate birthday parties for him.  I can’t imagine Evan not remembering his parties or the attention we lavished on him.
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In comparison, I don’t think I ever had a birthday party growing up.  I remember going to a friend’s house for her party when I was about five years old.  I was in awe of the event and how she was showered with so much attention.  The only celebration I can remember was when I was about eight years old.  There weren’t any kids invited to the house, but I remember having a German chocolate cake—my favorite.  It was a memorable occasion because my parents remembered that small detail about me.  
I was nineteen too when I finished my sophomore year of college.  I was attending a small liberal arts college 200 miles away from home.  I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior year housesitting for a professor and working on campus.   I loved my independence.  Looking back now, I’m sure that decision must’ve caused my mother much pain as I also chose to never live at home again.  But I know God opened that opportunity to protect me from the dysfunctional environment back home.
Thankfully, my son will return home again this summer.  We will adapt to having another mouth to feed and watching him come and go on his own schedule.  It is the new rhythm of letting go.  I am choosing to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.
And so how do you make a birthday memorable after so many well documented parties and dinner outings?  You turn to the simple. 
At NineteenTo celebrate Evan’s 19th birthday, we didn’t shower him with attention, parties and presents like we did in the past.  He came home for the weekend and enjoyed some family time.  It was nothing fancy—dinner on the grill, video games with his brother and a bit of TV with the family.  And for the first time ever, I made it just a bit more memorable (for me anyway), by baking him a birthday cake.  Proving that even at 19, parents do still have a few tricks left up their sleeve.
So for this mom, who tries hard to make her kids’ birthdays special, simple was a good change.  And less really was more. 
  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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