For 3.3 million high school students, the end is near. Oops, I guess it is the beginning. Life starts now! That’s right, school days are winding down, caps and gowns are being worn with dignity (and relief) as millions of students leave high school for the world at large. This year more than three million students will graduate from colleges and universities in our country, so it is very likely you will be getting an invitation to a graduation party.
Yes, students, congratulations are in order. You finally made it. Yes, now the “Rest of Your Life” begins, the “Great Adventure” has started, and we (the parents, family and teachers) are waiting for you to make your mark on the world. Just as your tassels were swinging in the breeze to the processional of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the adults in your life were sighing in relief. Finally, you can start earning your keep!
Well maybe not. It seems it is getting harder for kids to “leave the nest” and they linger a bit longer at home than past generations. If they are finished with college, the reality of a student loan is enough to put a dent in a new Grad’s plans to “take on the world.” Hard to do that and pay off $30,000 in student loans. This is now the national average cost for a student graduating with a Bachelor’s degree.
Hey, kids (sorry, I mean graduates), it’s been one expensive ride for your parents. According to some big study that was published in Newsweek, the average American child costs over $200,000 to raise, not to mention college. College costs push the envelope to the upper stratosphere, breaking the pocketbooks of many a parent, not to mention placing a drain on retirement funds. Can you blame parents for crying when they watch you walk on stage to receive your diploma? Those tears are tears of joy! The poverty has ended! (Unless you have a student loan; then more poverty looms).
Of course, the children are always worth whatever we spend to give them a better life. But 200,000 bucks? Payback is a stitch – it’s so funny to imagine that I can’t stop laughing. As one Prescott man laments, “Putting two kids through college has wiped out any hope of a decent retirement for me and my wife. Maybe the kids will help us in our older years.” Is this guy kidding? No, he’s absolutely right, in fact, maybe he could start billing them now.
On a brighter note, watching the kids graduate is one of the “moments” in a parent’s life that creates true pride. High school, college – it’s all been quite a journey and families tend to travel it together. Help with homework, science experiments, math equations, special reports and endless hours of studying suddenly ends with a cap, gown, diploma and processional. What could be grander? Commencement speeches may drag on a little too long, but we can suffer through that. And yes, the line of students may seem endless, but there is something beautiful about hearing your child’s name called up on that stage.
Graduation marks an ending of one huge chapter. It is the single biggest milestone to the “next phase.” Adulthood is looming in the not-so-distant future. Children may move away, get married, have babies, join the military … leave the nest. Yikes! The patter of little (or big) feet is silenced and no matter how difficult, time-consuming, expensive and exhausting it was, guiding the kids through those school years might be one of the greatest achievements of all time. As parents, the graduation ceremony and party should be for you!
No, on second thought, it’s the teachers of the world who deserve our applause. Teachers stand up to our kids and they stand up in front of our kids, in an amazing effort to show them the light of learning. Every day teachers climb the mountain and do the impossible – they capture the attention of a teenager for more than 10 minutes! On top of it, they are usually underpaid and overworked! Teachers deserve our admiration.
Parents, on a practical note, it might be a little premature to start painting your graduate’s bedroom and transforming it into your office. You might want to wait a while (like five years). If you are teary-eyed because your graduate is leaving home, take heart, the kid will probably be back. If you are crying because your graduate shows no interest in leaving home (ever), remain hopeful. This too, shall pass. The nest will get empty and eventually, the children do leave and make their “mark” on the world.
It’s been a quite a journey that brings us to a graduation ceremony. Savor the moment! It is the beginning of a new chapter in life, a definitive benchmark that should be celebrated with gusto! So to all you graduates - congratulations! We are proud.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and local Realtor. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.