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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thom

Celebrating a Senior's Walk: How we got here

In our community, there is a tradition for high school graduating seniors to return to their elementary schools and process down the halls, giving high fives to excited children. While there’s a significant difference in height, the smiles are the same for both the young and older students. 

This year, I attended my first “Senior Walk” with my oldest son Andrew, as a part of a series of celebrations of his upcoming high school graduation. Like a lot of parents of high school seniors, I am watching Andrew with a genuine sense of awe, constantly asking myself, “How did we get here?” 

Andrew at his high school Senior Walk

As a child, my son was always in a hurry, doing everything with gusto. Motion and sound were the watch words of our household in the early years of Andrew’s childhood. I remember burning through the motor of at least one infant swing because Andrew enjoyed swinging at the highest setting so much. Andrew was highly verbal at a very early age, and his babbling, laughter, and self-talk became a joyful soundtrack for many road trips as a young family.

Andrew. Always with gusto.

Elementary school, middle school, COVID-19, high school, driving lessons, proms, everything seems to have been moving with the same blurred gusto. You can easily lose track of how we got here.

But here in the hallway of the elementary school my son used to bramble through, I am reminded of how we got here. As Andrew processes the hall, flanked on each side by children giving him high fives, he stops multiple times to receive hugs from teachers who played such a vital role in his growth as a student and as a young man. Many of these teachers no longer teach at that elementary school, but returned anyway to celebrate these seniors. The love and affection that these teachers have for Andrew and his fellow classmates is inspiring.

Our son's journey to graduation has been filled with amazing teachers

Unlike their individual high school graduation ceremonies where their cap and gown regalia will match their fellow classmates, here at the senior walk there are a multitude of gown colors as students went on from this elementary school to a number of different high schools. It is a reminder that while we may take different paths in life, we are always connected by community, whether that’s an elementary school, a neighborhood, a church, or a sports team.

Andrew still does everything with gusto, and while I would never want that to change, these days I have been finding myself trying to slow everything else in my life down. In our busy lives, there seems to be a constant pulling toward whatever thing is supposed to happen next. When we’re driving home from work, we’re mentally planning what's for dinner. When we’re getting ready for bed in the evening, we’re checking our phones to see what the calendar looks like for the morning. It is always there, like a kind of gravity, always pulling on us. Lately, I have been trying to hold every moment and fight that natural gravity of next. I want to slow it all down and try to hold on to here.

Perhaps you will also be celebrating your senior while wondering what comes next. Perhaps you will be entering into the “empty nest” season of life and full of the emotions that accompany that. For me, when Andrew takes his next senior walk across the stage at his graduation ceremony, I will be doing all I can to avoid thinking about what is next for him and our family. College for him, and sure, a Golden house with a little less gusto in it for us, will be here soon enough. For now, we’re celebrating our senior, his hard work and perseverance, his amazing creative spirit, and all of the teachers and friends who were there for him, and us all throughout. We celebrate these because they are, in fact, how we got here.

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