Written by Juan Fernandez
Published Issue: Summer 2008
It happens every year around this time--high school graduations. This year is our turn and the turn of many of our close friends. A few weeks ago, we sat in the stands, fighting back tears of joy, sadness, pride, and happiness. We listened to the speeches from school administrators, valedictorians, and others. The speeches were filled with a sense of melancholy but also with hope, enthusiasm, and optimism for the future. The ceremony culminated for my wife and I when our child’s name was read over the public announcement system and we saw our baby walk onto the stage to receive a diploma. The four years of high school have gone by very quickly, too quickly I believe. The graduation from high school and the preparation to go away to college represents a life-changing event in the lives of the graduates and us, their parents. These young men and women will leave their homes for college to face a world without the comfort, protection, structure and love of home. They will be entering a new world filled with exciting challenges, strong temptations, endless opportunities, and unseen dangers. We wish them all well.
The members of the graduating class of 2008 were born during a very important time in our history. During 1989 and 1990, we saw the end of the Soviet dominance over Eastern Europe, the release of Nelson Mandela, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the resignation of Margaret Thatcher. Who can forget the images of those young Germans climbing atop the Berlin Wall, destroying the wall by chipping away at it with hammers; those brave Chinese students in Tiananmen Square building the Goddess of Democracy while the courageous, unknown “tank man” stood before a line of tanks; the exuberant Mandela, with a wide smile and tight fist in the air following his release from prison. That was the time in history into which the graduating class of 2008 was born, a world with a sense of hope for a peaceful and prosperous future.
The roughly 18 years since then have been filled with first steps, sleepless nights, baptisms, first days of school, discussions of bad grades and celebrations of good grades. We attended, videotaped, and coached countless baseball, volleyball, basketball, soccer games. We attended Christmas pageants, birthday parties, school field trips. We worried about high fevers, school dances, broken arms, and broken hearts, and stayed up late waiting for their arrival from dances and parties. We fought and argued over clothes, unfinished chores, choice of music, instant messaging, allowances, unfair curfews, forgotten school projects, boyfriends and girlfriends, texting, MySpace, and homework. But most of all, the last 18 precious years have been filled with unforgettable moments of pride and joy, moments and emotions that words cannot come close to describe.
We hope and pray the time spent teaching our children about personal responsibility, the importance of building character and making wise choices, the need to cultivate good values and healthy habits, and the honor in doing something well have prepared them for the freedom and unavoidable temptations that await them in just a few weeks. They will have a freedom that up till now they have only imagined. They will enjoy the freedom to choose to sleep in late rather than attend class, to eat fast food rather than a healthy, well-balanced meal, to go to a party rather than study for a test, and freedom to surrender to seductive and potentially dangerous adventures.
In a few weeks, as they leave home for college, they will leave behind a deafening silence in our lives, a large void that parents and siblings will find a way to fill. Things will never be the same. Slowly home for them will be somewhere else. They will return to us from time to time, but each time they will return a little different. They will develop new interests and acquire new tastes. It is inevitable. We will help them pack, drive them to their new school, and give them some last-minute advice. We will return home a little sad and fearful, but also happy, enthusiastic, and hopeful that we have accomplished our most important task, to send a decent, self-sufficient, compassionate, virtuous young man or woman into the world.