High school seniors, let’s not mince words: this sucks. You’re grieving getting to experience the joyful last weeks of high school, final extracurricular seasons and shows, rites of passage like prom, and being with your classmates one last time celebrating your graduation. It’s a bad deal and we grieve with you.
Not so long ago, I was snapping pictures of a little boy looking back nervously as he bravely stepped onto the school bus for the first time. I’m pretty sure both of us were trying not to cry. A few minutes later, I was (that mom) hiding behind the school’s bushes as he was herded into a line of tiny kindergartners sporting enormous backpacks. Those little kids were the Class of 2020. They have survived anxious parenting that questioned what kind of a world they were being born into after 9/11 only to be handed an ending to their childhoods equally tragic.
I want to celebrate my kid, who, like any other, overcame obstacles in his path, took a few missteps he had to learn the hard way how to fix by himself, and grew emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually in ways we couldn’t quite fathom when we put him on the bus that first time. He found a best buddy, got his heart broken a few times, landed a great first job and an awful first car, and found a couple sports he could enjoy his whole life. The ACTs, the APs, and all the other lettered bits are soon to be behind him as he steps into the next phase of life.
But it probably won’t be by way of a graduation platform.
It’s another life lesson parents have tried to gently teach throughout the years: that life, for all its joys, is full of unexpected turns. Bad things happen that are often out of your control. The mettle of your character as a burgeoning adult will be forged in how you respond to what life throws at you, both the good and the bad. Like all the other hard things, you will simply have to do your best, find the joy that remains, acknowledge your grief, and move forward stronger for the experience.
We who love and support you—your educators, church community, and families—will do our best to find creative ways to mark this occasion, deficient as they feel. You will always be a special class, 2020, though it didn’t take a pandemic for us to know that.
—To Reid, with love