This week my son graduates from high school. His has been a difficult road through many non-traditional roadblocks. From a GATE (honors) student in 7th grade he descended into drug use. Got arrested in 8th grade. Entered his first (of 4) rehabs that same year.
I've let go of MY expectations for him. I try to accept that his path is different than mine was.
There have been times(many) when I wasn't sure he would see 18.
But he made it, despite his father's death a year ago.
One way or another, he is being graduated out of high school.
It's more than a milestone. It's a miracle.
I am relieved and happy for him. Proud that he didn't give up entirely.
But I find myself strangely depressed -- a deep-seated, punch-in-the-gut depression.
Has anyone else felt this odd response (perhaps not unlike post-partum depression) to their child's graduation from high school?
My youngest is graduating today and I don't feel that way. Perhaps you are worried because graduation is a step toward adulthood and even though he has come a long way you are worried about the future?
My youngest has Asperger's Syndrome, so even though he is graduating from high school, he will be with us for awhile longer, so maybe I don't feel the transition as strongly as you do. When the time comes for him to go out on his own, I anticipate a much greater anxiety.
Thanks for responding. I think there are some parallels between your son and my son. Neither is at the emotional level of their classmates.
I will have to ponder exactly what my feelings are about.
Possibly recognition that I can't go back and prevent the losses of his childhood. Possibly the gnawing reality that ready or not, here he goes.
But I do have trust that he'll manage and thrive however God intends.
BTW, congrats on your son's graduation, too! MM
When my daughter graduated last year I was both sad and over joyed. It was the ending of one part of her life and a whole new beginning. She struggled in HS, much differently than your son, but none the less, she was bullied relentlessly. I believe it made her stronger and more understanding.
We work hard as mom's during the 12 years of school. There is a lot to let go of.
I say congrats to you both - you made it! Celebrate it
I've gone through something similar when they got to be about that age, but it was also a different situation.
I think, though, we have ideas about how we'd like things to be for our children during their childhood and teen years. When they get to be 18 or so we're hit in the face with the reality that things weren't how we'd hoped they would be FOR THEM (not for us, and that's important to mention). So I think (at least in my case), I mourned for what had been lost; because while there had been a time there was hope things could be the way I wanted them to be for one child or another, being hit with the reality of their age meant I had to come to grips, not only with the reality that what I'd hoped for hadn't happened, but with being faced with the fact that the hope had been "for nothing".
My kids went through a similar thing at the same time, from their own perspective.
On a less depressing note, though, what I also found was as they got past the most difficult part of their teen years (and it wasn't that they were "acting up or anything" - just being too young to be all that sensible, but too old for me to be able to do much about it); they matured just that much more (gradually between 18 and 25), and it became clear just how solid our relationships were and just how much we'd managed to get through and still have solid relationships. They're not all that "ironed out" at 18 or so, so there can be a lot of "not feeling grounded" (on the part of parents and kids, themselves). I think it's usually just a matter of settling into a new phase of life as parent/child. I think, too, there's some element of "empty nest", no matter what their plans are.
I cried on my youngest child's first day of kindergarten and I cried when she graduated. I was happy for her both times but sad for me because both times I knew that my roll in life would never be the same again! And did I do enough, could I have done it better, etc. comes in to play too. It can put one into a state of confusion and yes grief until one decides what their new roll will be in the lives of their children - they have all gone on with their own lives now and I am very happy with my roll in those lives. It is never too late to lend yourself to the success and well-being of another. I am sure you must be very proud of your son and congratulations on getting the two of you through some very difficult and challenging circumstances.
Sounds like it's time to Celebrate! Sounds like it's time to tell your son how proud of him you really are. For everything.
May I suggest you write him a letter? Unload your worries and concerns from the past while telling him you trust his judgement and believe in his future. Something like this:
I know you struggled a few years ago, but today you are a different person than I ever expected you would be. As you move forward in your life it's important for you to remember your past is your past and you can leave it there. It's okay to visit past thoughts once in awhile, when you are looking for areas of your life to improve. I just wanted to let you know I'll always be here for you.
Mighty Mom, you have tremendous strength and are a positive force here on HubPages. You always have encouraging thoughts for others. I rejoice that your son has made it through some astoundingly difficult trials and that he has a mom like you to assist him as he launches into his adult life. Parenting is a praiseworthy calling but so difficult. It is never ever what we expected.
Hang in there and please talk with a close friend if you start feeling more depressed.
I think what you feel is absolutely natural. What comes through in your statement is how much you love your son and that is the greatest gift you can continue to give him. He has done really well. Don't feel guilty that you feel sad or worry whether other mothers do. It's a feeling that will pass, but as someone else has said - hopefully you have someone to share your feelings with who will understand.
My son graduated and then married at 18 and moved out. His path was very similar to your own son. I should have been very happy, but yes, I struggled with depression. I too let go of expectations a long time ago.
What I realized recently is although I have accepted him, I had not grieved the loss of what I had hoped being a mother would have been. I had hopes and dreams and although I let go of them -- because I had to -- I had not grieved that loss. I was so busy dealing with the next crisis, that I didn't have time to grieve. What felt like depression was the beginning of my grieving process.
I hope you have a really strong support system.
Your depression could have many causes. One possible cause is simple confusion - not being able to comprehend how he could go from gifted to challenged in the blink of an eye. This often occurs with gifted or highly intelligent children. Perhaps understanding some of the catalysts for his conversion can help. Males, at about 14 years old, fall into a social skill development category similar to that of 4 year old children. It is a type of regression necessary for them to process the information required to gain the social skills that they need to function effectively in the adult world. The reason that it so often occurs with intelligent children is because our educational system does not allow the child to develop the social skills that his brain is telling him to develop. He knows that he must enter the adult world and have the social skills to work in large groups of people and deal with multiple types of personalities. He is beginning to actually experience the multitude of personality types in the high school environment - multiple "cliques", multiple teachers, and higher levels of responsibility. At this point in human development the need for academic intelligence is not as important as the need for social skill development; therefore, intelligent children tend to make a healthy choice, biologically, by foregoing academics and focusing on social skill and relationship construction. Unfortunately, the people he chose to learn these things with had ineffective methods of coping with the changes necessary to transition into the adult world. The rehabs focused his attention on the natural consequences of such actions and, hopefully, he has learned to make more effective choices through that education. It's very important to remember that we learn from our mistakes. If we did it right, then we had nothing to learn. About the age of 18 males tend to begin to think about academia again and by 21 their brains have developed enough in the "social comprehension" area to allow them to stop focusing on that (which is a process and not an "overnight" occurrence) and regain a focus on academia. If you'd like to read more about then let me know and I will post a hub on the topic (I plan to at some point, anyway). There is some important information there about the teenage years. Post a comment and ask a question and a blog will appear in response to your specific challenge. Hopefully this helps to understand that what he has done was intelligent and necessary for his development as a human. It has kept him from moving into "isolation" as he matures and now he needs consistent and firm support in moving onto the next stage of life - adulthood. This is a scary step for many individuals, which is why they may choose to "self medicate" with drugs in order to relieve the stress associated with a natural transition that is not recognized by our educational system or well supported in our culture. He is developing normally and needs to know where to go from here. Remember to tell him what TO do as opposed to what NOT to do. Guide him in this way - he already knows what not to do. Also, seek out Erik Erikson's 8 stages of man, which is easy to find on the web and it will give you greater insight into his (and your) particular stage of development. I would say "Good Luck!", but it's not about luck, it's about understanding. Understanding ends confusion.
Sometimes emotions are just that - emotions. They sometimes need to be analysed but often its OK to accept that you are sad (in this instance) and happy at other times.
Its transition time for you both. Whatever you feel it's OK and putting a "should" into it is unnecessary pressure.
My wish is that you are kind to yourself and celebrate that you've made it through this difficult time with your son. It's not always easy raising children!
I have typed like nine responses to this, edited some of them, and, in the end, deleted them all.
So, just, I get so much of what you are suffering and yet, not enough to pretend I "get it." So, just, I'm sorry.
I understand completely how you are feeling as I am going through the same thing. I think part of my depression stems from having to deal with the fact that my children have somehow grown up and don't need me to "mother" them anymore. I feel almost worthless and abandoned. Not having them to focus all of my energy on leaves me to focus it on myself-which makes me even more depressed. I realize that for the last 21 years I built my identity around being their "mom" and left "me" in the background. Somehow I turned from being an althletic, funloving, youthful person into a frumpy, overweight, middle-aged, recluse that hates to look in the mirror. I don't know who I am, where I'm going, and what I am going to do with myself-and it's scary.
Growth and change are good things when they are beneficial.
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