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Kids graduating? 'The best is yet to be'
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Watching our kids graduate from high school to higher education to the workforce and then to marriage and having families of their own has been simply a joy (though not every day in every way). Even though fear is always in the mix when unexpected trials inevitably thrust themselves into their lives, their contributions in the workplace, in the community, to their church and especially to their families are wondrous. - photo by Linda and Richard Eyre
I (Linda) clearly remember feeling my heart beat a little faster as I proudly watched our first little daughter graduate from her preschool class many years ago when we lived in McLean, Virginia.

Where has the time gone? I thought. Just yesterday she was a tiny baby. But here she was, our shy little 4-year-old Saren, graduating from her preschool, ready for the brave new world of kindergarten.

Now fast forward: With three college graduations this year, we have been reminiscing over the myriad graduations we have experienced since that preschool day so long ago.

And it makes us smile.

There were kindergarten graduations, complete with little mortarboard hats. There was the elementary school graduation when our son Noah and his dad were the emcees for the big event and kept the audience laughing. Then there were all those junior high graduations, where most kids accepted scholarship and citizenship awards bedecked with a mouthful of braces, guys feeling awkward in the dress clothes mothers made them wear and several of the girls struggling across the stage in heels way too high for their age.

High school graduations next took center stage. Ours were particularly memorable because we had the opportunity to have our nine children graduate from high school. Surrounded by gold leaf and crystal chandeliers. nine times we endured the walk of several hundred graduates across the stage so we could give our one brief shoutout for our own graduate.

I forgot how concerned I was about our oldest child leaving home until this year, when our oldest grandson, Max, graduated from high school in Gilbert, Arizona. The scene was a little different, with 800 graduates on the high school football field and friends and family of each graduate sitting in the bleachers. When it ended, 8,000 people flooded the field to congratulate their graduates after the ceremony.

For at least a year before his graduation, Maxs mother, Shawni, had been wringing her hands over the fact that Max would be leaving the nest soon and they needed to do everything in their power to take advantage of their family time together before he left. Knowing that she would hardly see him once he became a senior and it was their last chance to spend quality time together as a nuclear family, she and her husband, Dave, decided to fulfill their dream of living in China for a semester with their five children. Through a long series of events too lengthy to explain, they moved to China during the first semester of Maxs senior year and basked in being an uninterrupted family unit for just a few months before they would have to hit the real world and let Max go. All the family members would agree that it wasnt easy but it was worth it.

Still, for the rest of the school year, Shawni was pretty much in mourning. The fear of her only son being gone next year brought thoughts of their family life changing forever.

Thinking of that fear gave me a chance to remember my own apprehensions when that baby girl Saren had grown up and left our nest for college in Boston. I worried about how she would survive in that world without our everyday guidance. I must admit that I wrote her a postcard every single day during that first year. I worried about her safety, how she would handle stress and how well she could manage her new world with so many new ideas and beliefs.

Looking back now with eight more high school graduations, 17 college graduations (including spouses) and six additional graduate degrees under our belt, I have realized that high school graduations, painful as they may be, are not just about leaving those high school memories behind. They are about fear changing to rejoicing as we realize that each graduation leads to something even more exciting for our kids: real life.

Once they leave, those high school graduates learn much more than just what is expected in the classroom or in the mission field or the workforce. They figure out who they really are and what they truly believe. They quickly learn that it takes creativity, perseverance and just plain grit not only to survive but also to thrive. They become adults who think great thoughts and have great ideas.

What a relief.

Eventually they discover that "difficult is good because hard times (which are inevitable) make them better and more resilient.

Watching our kids graduate from high school to higher education to the workforce and then to marriage and having families of their own has been simply a joy (though not every day in every way). Even though fear is always in the mix when unexpected trials inevitably thrust themselves into their lives, their contributions in the workplace, in the community, to their church and especially to their families are wondrous.

We find ourselves remembering, and altering slightly, the words of Robert Brownings famous poem to say, Grow up in spite of me. The best is yet to be!