Our eldest is graduating high school in a few short months. Apart from being an excellent student, she is a thoughtful friend, and, currently, a colossal tool. I am so glad she is all of these things because that is the state of being all grads should be in before they head to their great adventure. In fact, if your son or daughter is graduating high school this year and they are not all of these things–panic.
It is essential that your son or daughter be a thoughtful friend. If they haven’t learned this yet, there is still hope. They don’t give two shits about you at this point, but that stopped years ago whether you like to believe it or not. Those little bundles of narcissism need to think outside of their orbit and friends are a safe bet. Friends will be the ones to hold their hair back when the reins are relaxed, and they discover their alcohol tolerance limit. They will be the ones to escort them to a clinic when their uncontrollable itching is now disturbing their roommate. And, you want them to be that for their schoolmates while there too. These are life’s problems we would sooner they figure out on their own.
Let them be a tool. That is your son or daughter’s natural response to distancing themselves from his or her family. You may have felt the distance already throughout high school, but they recognize their safety net is being moved further away as the day they leave comes closer. They need to secure their harness on their own. Starting in September, your spawn will be unable to rely on you in the same way, so they are trying out pissing you off to the point that you leave them the fuck alone. It is working here by the way. This is preparedness. The transition to living without the comforts of home, including their sibling’s crazy antics, is uncharted and frightening. They won’t admit how scared they are, but they are terrified. And, rightly so. You’d be a tool too if we threw you in with a stranger and said, “Here, go live with this person for the next nine months. Sure, they fart in their sleep, but they have the same horoscope sign as you so you’ll be besties. Have fun!”
As for younger siblings, they are likely to be irritating as well. Most students spend their entire day near their brothers and sisters. At school, at home, and on holiday they don’t get a break from their crazy antics. It is comforting to know someone who has your back is in the same building. Those siblings are making themselves bigger than life and maybe making a lasting impression they feel left unsaid in the process. At least at our house, it looks a lot like chocking his sister saying, “I could have killed you,” to which she is required to tap out. To me, it looks like love in the form of touch. But don’t tell them I see through their little charade.
What I don’t think our daughter appreciates is that she is helping us with our separation anxiety as well. We are excited to see her leave not only because the calendar says it is time to do so but also because we really want her out of the house to give us all some much-needed space. I recognize that I will crave the space until I have it. For now, space is providing the strength I need to not cry all day. (I am not that enlightened.) I cope by walking away or using my finger gun to end the madness when no one is looking. Good job, Honey. Always thinking of your family. And, by always, I mean never.
Embrace your teenager’s assholyness. Every time they recoil at your touch, slam the door when you try to have a conversation that isn’t about what more you can do for them, or frantically tap at their phone as they entirely ignore yet another request and walk away, it will mean fewer tears when you drop them off at their dorm. It will mean you might not even receive the distress call made in the middle of the night when their debit card won’t work, and they don’t notice they are using their library card. It means you did everything right. Your progeny is ready, and you are too.