Accolades for the ‘village’

“Have a strong mind and a soft heart.” —Anthony J. D’Angelo

I have been asked many times in the past week how I feel. I knew watching my oldest child graduate, like any parenting “first,” would bring a grab bag of mixed feelings. But for this situation, I expected a more dramatic set of emotions.

The only feeling I can articulate is a sort of whiplash. I had a baby, she grew up slowly. Then I was hit in the chest with the image of a woman in a cap and gown.

It doesn’t hurt. It just stings a little.

I was probably more prepared for this occasion than I have been for any other. I’m a decent planner; a multiple list maker, but that doesn’t always transfer from paper to practice.

This time, though, felt slightly more manageable. Other than a looming fear of pouring rain and/or tier upon tier of leftover cupcakes, my emotions regulated. (Of course, the lack of emotion worried me, too.)

As moving as it is to watch your child accept a diploma, it’s just as much so to have people in all corners doing the heavy lifting. (I mean this literally. Particu­larly those who took it upon themselves to unfold tables, make them pretty and organize food for me, all the while tolerating an annoying, excitable dog.)

These acts, along with an endless list of other examples, allowed me to breathe in the bigger picture of a high school graduation.

The term “it takes a village” is true and understated. Not just for the culmination, but for all of it.

From day one of getting that baby, they are here.

Parents As Teachers educators who kept track of your toddler’s favorite marker color and celebrated with genuine excitement when they stacked six cups on top of each other.

A baby sitter whom you secretly believed for years might be more suitable to raise your kids than you are.

Elementary teachers who packed away handwritten notes and papers just to return them to their former students during graduation week.

Special middle and high school teachers who saw your kid through the perfect lens and encouraged in perfect ways.

Friends and family who listened to you question every parenting choice and non-choice and gave advice, understanding and the very best thing of all, an empathetic head nod that silently screamed, “I KNOW!”

“You always worry about your kids,” my mom told me yesterday, “It doesn’t matter how old they are. I still worry about Cindy (my sister, her oldest daughter, a grandmother to 10 herself.) I worry about all of you.”

With that bit of a reality check, the journey continues. As one mom to a thousand other people, I appreciate of my village, in every form it’s presented itself throughout those first 18 years.

My graduation wish for my daughter is that she go out into the world with a strong mind and a soft heart.

But not just her. All of the graduates and families. More soft hearts equals more peace of mind. In this transition and in new experiences coming, we will all need more of that.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com.