Not-so-Random Thoughts about Graduation and Saying Goodbye

Getting real with David T. Bruce

My 23-year-old daughter recently graduated from college, receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Many daughters and sons have done likewise, graduating from high school or college. As parents, we find ourselves obliged to attend commencement ceremonies where students are acknowledged and rewarded for their efforts. As we wait in line to be seated, wait for the ceremony to begin, and wait and wait . . . we have a bit of time to reflect and reminisce.

ADSCN4193s I sat with my family, I was alone with my thoughts, remembering the other ceremonies I have attended on behalf of my oldest daughter. The recognition she received was well deserved and these moments always gave me a sense of pride, but this particular graduation was much more significant for me.

When she graduated from high school and later moved away to attend a college, she was still a very large part of our world. We would hear from her regularly, she would come home during academic breaks and holidays, and she seemed to be largely dependent on us for guidance and support. As she completes her undergraduate studies, I now wonder if we, as parents, are not somehow dependent on our children to continue giving us a sense of value.

For perhaps the first time, I now have a feeling that my oldest daughter is truly leaving home. She has excelled in her studies, and she has matured on a number of levels: personally, professionally, idealistically and spiritually. My pride for her is incalculable, and my emotion is strong enough that I am okay wearing this on my sleeve like a badge – just this once at least. Dads can do this (moms can to, but this is about dads getting real after all).

So as my daughter accepts her diploma, I beam, as does the rest of the family (the younger kids probably more so because they know that the ceremony will soon come to a close). However, I also must reconcile the fact that she is now on a voyage of which we will not always be a part. Commencement is not the end of her education as much as it is the beginning of the next stage in her journey. Yet our paths will continue to cross, albeit less often.

So what’s my point?

I don’t know if I have one. I don’t think I necessarily need to have one. Sometimes it’s okay for dads to gloat and to grieve at the same time. And it is okay to be simultaneously prideful and despondent when it comes to wishing our adult children bon voyage.

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