Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Five Stages of Senior Year.

The letters of acceptance continue to arrive for my seniors, generating both excitement and somber faces in the hallways as the realization that graduation is closer than ever, signaling the beginning of the rest of their lives.  Or, the end of their current season.    For some of my seniors, acceptance is such a normal part of their achievement, that they don't even seem that excited to be accepted at colleges as prestigious as Williams, Haverford, Dickinson, or Pitzer.  The acceptance isn't announced with bubbly bouncing -- sometimes it's even pried out of the backpack containing a folder of acceptance letters -- and only because, well, I ASKED.

 Five Stages...

Senior year for most students can really be divided into the five stages of grief, ala Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  Certainly the parents are in Denial  that they could even be the parents of a senior.  It seems like just yesterday that they, as parents,  were stepping on LEGOS and worrying about whether teeth had been brushed before bedtime, frisking kids for flashlights so they wouldn't ruin their eyes reading under the covers after lights out. 

The kids roll their eyes, and wonder why their parents are taking extra pictures, and obsessing over them, as the parents begin the mental countdown of college in terms of months and weeks instead of years.

"It's SENIOR YEAR!" 
" I'm EIGHTEEN.  I am an ADULT AND CAN SIGN MY OWN EXCUSE CARD! " 
"I don't NEED a curfew because the State Police say so!" (Welcome to Anger.)  
And no, you can't sign your own excuse card -- the school won't accept it, and you'll lose senior exemption and have to (gasp) take the final exam. 

Shortly after Homecoming, everybody hits their stride.  Progress reports have been sent home, kids are making the grade, and writing college essays.  The Bargaining starts, as they attempt to demonstrate maturity at their proficiency in juggling extra curriculars, car keys/maintenance, a blossoming social life, and all the extra responsibilities demanded by College Board and Common App.  You know your kid is a senior when the house phone rings more often for them than Telemarketers calling for you.  Oh, and since they're doing such a fine job and demonstrating such amazing responsibility, well, how about lifting that curfew?

Depression sets in shortly after the New Year.  Reality is staring everyone - parents, teachers, students, and even younger siblings - in the face.  Suddenly it's no longer NEXT year that everyone's lives will be changed forever, it's this year.  In a matter of months.  People start using phrases like "in the home stretch" to describe the downhill slide. 

The college acceptances and rejections begin to roll in.  Pushpins are placed on maps, illustrating the ever-widening gaps across the state or nation representing the potential distance between current best friends.  Teachers realize how much these kids mean to them, and wonder which one of the current juniors will step into the leadership roles left by these seniors.  Parents start crying at commercials about kids going off to college, or coming home from foreign countries with Folger's coffee in tow.  (Don't lie.  You know you get choked up every year when that kid sneaks home on Christmas morning.)

Guess what?  Just around the corner is Acceptance.  The fifth stage is about to descend upon us, just as surely as the daffodils arrive every spring.  The kids know they're ready.  The teachers see a twinkle and new confidence.  Even the parents, reluctantly, realize that the next new adventure will be exactly that.  AP Exams will be faced with a new found confidence, roommate surveys will be mailed with housing deposits, and commencement will be upon us.

But not before hugging each other one more time, saying a silent prayer, and appreciating the present, savoring the goodness that is this year's senior class.

Commencement means beginning.  Really.  I have to remind myself of that every single year.  Usually through the tears of goodbye.