A Message to My Senior, Take 2

0:00 “Can you please connect with your college advisor tomorrow,” I asked my son.  “Mom it’s the first day,” he said. As his words hung […]

Published September 14, 2023 11:08 PM
3 min read


“Can you please connect with your college advisor tomorrow,” I asked my son. 

“Mom it’s the first day,” he said.

As his words hung in the air, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of regret for encouraging him to look past this moment and year entirely and think about next fall. But as he consistently has over the years, this laid-back, old soul of a kid reminded me to take a breath, look around – and just chill out.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who needs reminding.

As the final year of high school is off and running it’s hard not to get caught up in a cyclone of forward thinking. Starting mid-way through junior year, students and parents alike are called to focus on the next step and turn their attention to standardized tests, campus visits, the common app. Every day the mailbox and inbox overflows with postcards, brochures, and emails from colleges across the country advertising their state-of-the-art amenities and competitive academic offerings. 

“Does he have his essay written?” a friend asked at the end of August. I know he had been thinking about it, which seemed like a good start until I noted the tone of urgency in her voice and a pang of anxiety hit. Has everyone written their essay? Have they already completed their applications? Is he behind before he’s even started?

The message makers would like us to think we are. They want us to believe we are not focusing on the right thing — which would be the next thing. This comes as no surprise. 

Walk through any CVS in early September. Halloween candy and decorations line the aisles. And it’s only a matter of minutes before Santa, reindeer and glittery 2024 party hats will be on display. No one is asking us to slow down and soak in the sun of a late summer day. The message is loud and clear: all eyes on tomorrow.

Midway through the Women’s US Open finals, Chris Evert praised Coco Gauff’s remarkable ability to “stay within herself” in the midst of a high-pressure match. Despite losing the first set by a considerable margin, Gauff, 19, kept her head down and took it point by point. She celebrated the brilliant winners, centered herself when she fell short, and shot by shot crafted an incredible, historic victory.

I don’t know how she managed it. I don’t know how any of our teens manage to keep the blinders on and stay focused when everyone and everything around them implores them to look beyond themselves and the moment at hand. This pressure is expected from peers, social media, manic marketers – but not from mom.

Second week of senior year starts today and I’m planning to edit my messaging. Following my son – and Coco’s – lead, I’m working to stay focused on where we are today. I was a senior, and even a tennis player, once, and well know that in the end it’s not about the last point – but about all the points, all the moments, and all the days, big or small. Of course, now that I am a mom, I can’t entirely abandon the reminders that there are things to do and think about regarding the future, but I hope above all to support my son’s penchant to keep his head and heart in the present. 

In a year full of “lasts”, I hope he and I are able to embrace all the “firsts”, all the unremarkable, un-post-worthy moments – a high five in the hall, an encouraging word from a coach or teacher, an unremarkable Monday night dinner because I know they are the ones he and I will miss the most next fall.

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