We sat, as always, front and center, four rows from the stage so we could have that all-important perfect view of our son performing. And, of course, so I could get ideal photos of the concert.
It was late May. My wife and I sat there feeling rather sentimental, thinking the same things but sitting quietly, keeping thoughts to ourselves. This was our youngest’s last high school concert—and to our sad disbelief it was also ours.
Where had the time gone? Just yesterday, he’d been sitting next to us, watching first his sister, then his older brother perform in some music or sporting event. Now we were watching our youngest, a senior in high school, nearing graduation.
Mamaroneck High School has a wonderful ritual each year: to conclude the annual spring concert by honoring the graduating seniors, calling them each to the stage with a few words about their experience and where they are each heading off to next. College! My wife and I sat there quietly; proud, beaming, but misty-eyed.
We were sad.
As we walked out of the auditorium looking for our son, we saw him standing with his closest friends, arm in arm, posing for the parent photos. He came over to us; we hugged as we always do after a concert, telling him how proud we were, how awesome he was. But we noticed that he was having a bit of a tough time. He had tears in his eyes.
We asked if he was OK. He looked at us, holding back tears, and said, “I just can’t believe it’s over. It’s really sad.”
I looked at my son, proud he was comfortable showing his emotions amongst his friends who were also clearly choked up. And I remembered the words I said to my wife a few years earlier: “You’re lucky to be sad.”
I looked at Rob and reminded him, “You’ve had a special time; you’ve made so many good close friends. You are lucky to have had the kind of time that you will truly miss.” He nodded.
When it comes to family, my wife and I, like many of our close friends, have looked at things a bit differently from other parents. Over the years, when it was time to send our kids off to camp or college, there would be those who’d say, “Lucky you—you must be so relieved. You have your freedom!” We’d see parents high-fiving each other as the buses drove away, several muttering to themselves, “Finally, they are gone.”
We never understood them. We would sit in the car driving home quietly but clearly a bit depressed. We’d wonder if we were strange to not be seeing the separation as some parentally liberating event. We decided we weren’t strange at all, just lucky. To have kids we preferred being with, children we would miss.