Right now my son sits in his final day of high school. He will leave at 2:30, never to return as a student. I sound like a drama queen, I know. But this is what consumes my thoughts. I’m surprised how sad I am. I should be celebrating, right? Yes. And no.

My counselor friend Lucille Zimmerman says the graduation and transition of the first child is considered one of the most difficult and painful life transitions for the family. Based on the intensity of my emotions over the past twelve months, I concur.

It feels like a ripping, like someone is tearing off of a piece of me. I’m jagged, raw. And there is nothing I can do about it.

For me the ripping started just a few months before my oldest son’s 17th birthday, when he could finally drive himself to and from school, work, his friends’ houses. One morning he couldn’t wait for my chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. The next he rushed out the door and said he didn’t have time, leaving a cold plate on the kitchen counter. One Friday night he curled up on our family room floor watching movies and eating pizza just as we’d done for 16 years. The next weekend he said he’d be hanging out with friends. He didn’t need us the same way anymore, didn’t want us the same way anymore. Almost overnight he became a man-child, every day more independent.

This is what we want as parents. We want our children to grow up, become responsible human beings, able to make their own way and be a positive force in our culture. Yes, we want this. I want this. But I didn’t anticipate the ripping necessary for my children to stand on his own. I didn’t know how much I would miss the days I once wished away but now can never get back.

As I write I’m trying to remember the last time my boys crawled into our bed on a Saturday morning, all legs and giggles and my husband and I moaning because of the 7 AM time on the clock. No matter how hard I rack my brain, I can’t remember it. Because I didn’t realize it was the last time. If I’d have known, we would have stayed there all day.

Do you ever wish you could go back? What memory would you revisit if you could?