Charles: Summer of irrelevance

Are we all graduated out yet? Have we had our fill of speakers telling their audience, be they kindergarten, middle schoolers, high schoolers or college students, to go out and change the world?

As we head into the final days and weeks of graduation season, we must prepare for this new time in our lives.

First, a little confession, lest you think I’m being overly cynical about those special ceremonies: I actually like graduations, as long as I know someone graduating. Pomp and circumstance can make me cry like a baby. Graduations are a big deal in my family, and we all turn out for as many as we can, be they eighth grade, high school, or college.

But graduation season, and all the accolades, parties and platitudes are not what I want to warn you parents about. This is just a little heads-up (and salt in your wounds) for you parents who will be sending your baby birds off to college in the fall, so you’re feeling a bit nostalgic and melancholy: Get ready for the Summer of Irrelevance.

This may not happen to all of you, and bless those of you who by September, won’t be able to relate. But I’m warning you the way I was warned, so you won’t think you’re alone these next few months.

You will become, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.

No, you say, you and your child (or children) have always been close, and they will take these final months at home, before their big journey, to spend as much time with you and the family as possible. They will take comfort in those familiar surroundings and realize their days of home-cooked meals and family movie and/or game nights are numbered. They will be underfoot for spontaneous hugs and cuddles as they hold on to those last vestiges of childhood. It will be a perfect summer of love.

Or not.

For many of you (and I’ve lived this, so I know of what I speak), your little cherub will spend as much time out of the house and away from you as humanly possible. Remember how you wanted to give them roots, and then give them wings? Those wings, barely fully feathered, are flapping like mad and they’re taking flight, ready or not.

For one thing, their friends will become the most important people in their lives this summer. The next outing, party, get-together, cookout, envelope-opening, cannot happen without them being there as a witness and active participant. Sure, they may work this summer, coming home dog-tired and bleary-eyed. Don’t be surprised if they can shake that off as soon as a text comes through announcing something, anything, happening out of your house.

And then there’s the attitude.

They’re grown now, or near-enough to see it from here. So they have to practice being on their own, making decisions, both good and bad, without your questions and prying eyes. If they tell you where they are going (out is not a destination), count your blessings. In a few months, you won’t know what time they go out or come home. They’re practicing — I guess you are too, although no one told you the rules had suddenly changed.

If you were a strict disciplinarian, this will be a harder summer for you. You’re used to more than vague answers to questions, knowing the names of the friends, knowing the general vicinity of where those friends live.

But if you suddenly find you’re hearing unfamiliar names, and wondering who gives parties on Tuesday nights, don’t be alarmed. You’re not alone.

There was a time in every parent’s life when he/she was the center of the child’s universe. Remember when they wanted to spend time with you? Even just going out to the store was an adventure they couldn’t wait to share? Then slowly, they got friends. Around middle school, sometimes earlier, their friends’ opinions mattered more than yours. But you weathered the Goth days, blue hair days, even the not-just-ears-piercing days, knowing that one day, your opinion would again matter the most. Keep waiting mom and dad. I’m told they come back to you sometime after the teen years. Right now, you’re well, irrelevant.

The thing is, it’s probably Mother Nature’s way of making sure you don’t fall apart when you finally drop them off at college and go home without them. You will have spent that last week or two of the summer ranting about how they haven’t packed a thing while they’re spending that last week seeing their friends every. single. day. They are separating from the people they’ve shared their confidences with these last four (or six) years. You get to be taken for granted for the last three months they will officially live only in your house. If they spend the last few months poisoning the nest before they leave it, maybe you won’t miss them so much.

Parents, don’t worry. Even as you fantasize about slowing down the car, giving them a swift kick and telling them to hit and roll as you speed off, you — and they — will survive this summer. Laugh at them, and at yourself, when you feel like crying (or committing homicide). They will miss you. You will miss them.  Enjoy your summer and reconnect with your spouse, partner, any remaining children, and pets. You will all be just fine. And it will only be three months until November, when they come back to visit, sleep — and ignore you all over again.


More Stories In Opinion