Saturday, June 2, 2012

In which our son, Austin, graduates

Austin, prom night

Dear blog/diary:

This graduation stuff sucks! Talk about an emotional roller-coaster ride. God, I'm glad that's done. However, what's next?

Austin (our oldest son) graduated last night, and turns 18 in a few days. He's got a foot still planted in youthful immaturity, having fallen hopelessly in love/obsession with a girl. But then there are those flashes of maturity that shine through. Like today.

But first -- what's up with half of Floresville turning out for the graduation ceremony? We got there 45 minutes early and pulled into one of the last parking spots, far from the stadium. (The graduation is held outdoors in the football stadium; I guess that's the only place big enough for it.) We made our way to the stadium only to find the seats all taken on the "home" side! We had to sit on the far side of the stadium, with the speakers' backs turned to us, but right by the band. We had been warned how packed it would be, but it was still a surprise.

This was my attitude about it: I was pissed! I mean, really? There were tons of people there just to watch the show, who didn't even have a family member graduating! Is Floresville really that much of a sleepy, boring hill-billy town that everyone thinks the high school graduation ceremony is the biggest thing happening? Yup, apparently so. Austin said, Mom, it's a small town! Graduation is a big deal!

Dwaine and Andrew got bored once the top 10% had graduated (Austin among them) and wanted to leave -- walk out, right there. I just couldn't do it. That would be too tacky! So we sat through the rest of the graduates being recognized. Then we snuck out early. So I didn't get to see everybody toss their caps in the air, though I did hear the ridiculous country song that the class picked out as its own. Something, Austin said, about "Driving my tractor and big-ass truck," maybe not in those exact words. You know? It fits, about half the population (actually, less than half these days). Could have used some spicy salsa music for the greater half, which is the population that Austin mostly hangs with.

Yesterday was a really tough day, at least for me. I was stuck on the idea that Austin was on the verge of wrecking his life with this girlfriend obsession. How could I possibly be happy about his graduation? I've been ping-ponging between being furious at Austin for some stupid choices he's made/will make, and realizing that this is my son, whom I love deeply, and nothing will ever change that. Last night after graduation, he called asking to go to the river with said girlfriend today, and I sulked, very noticeably, and practically hung up on him. Way to go, Mom! Way to model how to behave as a responsible adult! (I take a sardonic bow.) Hey, at least he still asks. Though, recently, he declined to follow our advice, and that is what really hurts.

I've had all the worst disaster scenarios making practice runs in my mind, which hops everywhere like a caffeine-crazed rabbit in times of stress. I tell you, I am so tired of being an unenlightened human being and having to endure all this suffering of my body, mind, and emotions. Most of it self-induced. But I can tell that people have really been praying for me (and practicing contemplation has definitely helped, too). Because as much dirt as my rabbity mind tries to kick up, I can still catch a glimmer of the truth.

Today, I was more emotionally centered (as of latest report) and wasn't trying to manipulate my child with my moodiness -- for the moment, anyhow! When Austin had rolled out of bed, taken his brother to work and returned home, I asked if he had time to mow the lawn (because I'm a big believer in giving a little to get a little, which means he still has responsibilities here if he wants to go enjoy life with his girlfriend/friends). He did mow the lawn, and when he was done, announced that his girlfriend had left without him. I said, well just drive on up there and meet them. He said, no, don't want to waste the gas. He was remarkably calm about it. He and I went on to talk about graduation, he showed me his brand-spanking new diploma, and he was completely normal and OK with everything, not sulky at all. What a man! He then left to go to a friend's house.

This is why it's so important for me to get a handle on my own feelings! It's amazing to see how much Austin mirrors me in that regard. Today, I was calm; he was calm. Though it is tempting to pull out the emotional stops and work them, baby, work them! That's probably why he felt compelled to mow the lawn today, because I was so upset about the whole river outing last night. Hey, it's manipulative, but it works! At least in the short run. Women everywhere are in on this little secret.

The truth? Goes something like -- Austin's life is his own now. He will make his own choices. We can decide, if he bombs out of school, that it is time for him to move out and support himself with a job instead of going to college. This is not the end of the world!! (I wanted to add a lot more exclamation points there, but I restrained myself.)

Whatever we do in response, the important thing is to act in love, not in anger, and to show Austin our love, not the petty anger. It's not that hard to do, especially with people praying for me. The real disaster would be if we wrecked our loving, close relationship with our son. That would be pretty much the end of the world, and I'm not willing to go there. No matter what.

It is no coincidence that I am going through a spiritual formation class right now that emphasizes contemplative practice. This is the Christian version of meditation, by the way. I need it in my life right now!

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