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As the Parent of a High School Junior, Here’s What’s on My Mind

I had been warned this time was coming, but I resisted. Parents of high schoolers used to look at my toddlers and tell me I would miss the days when I could contain them in a crib at night. Parents of teens would stop me in the grocery store to comment how much they loved chubby baby feet while uttering a phrase I came to hate, “The days are long but the years are short.”

And now I’m the parent of teens. I’m on the side of parenting where—suddenly—every moment feels attached to a long goodbye. This is the side of parenting teens where I stop in the middle of my kitchen and realize that college drop off is on the horizon. The side of parenting where I start to wonder if I’ve done everything to prepare my teen for the real world, whatever that is these days.

And I start to have thoughts.

A running litany of thoughts, ranging from reasonable concern to absolute panic—and everything in between.

As a parent of a second semester high school junior, the reality of senior year is never far from my mind. Or my thoughts. And, now that COVID-19 has upended all of the end of the year plans I envisioned for my high school junior, my thoughts have turned to how he’ll look back on this time in quarantine. And how I’ll remember it.

Thoughts I’ve Had as the Parent of a High School Junior:

We have to start looking for colleges. Like, yesterday. Why did we wait so long?

Am I spoiling him if I give him $20 for gas?

OMG, the FAFSA is going to kill me. I’m going to ignore that fresh hell for now.

The College Board website hates me.

Why are there so many questions to sign up for the SAT?

Susan just posted that Emily has been accepted to her 9th college with early decision. I’m pretty sure I don’t like Susan anymore.

Must. Schedule. College. Visits.

Please Lord, don’t let her break his heart.

How is it possible that I raised a child who can get a 5 on an AP test but still can’t find the hamper to save his life?

Promposals are a thing, now, huh? Note to self: don’t roll your eyes out loud.

If I stand just right and squint my eyes, I can still see the little boy who wore footie pjs and carried a Thomas the Tank Engine everywhere. Where has the time gone?

Why do gym clothes that have been forgotten at the bottom of a locker for three weeks smell like the underside of a water buffalo? #AskingForAFriend

No, seriously, where did the time go? Because I just saw my toddler pulling out of the driveway to head to his part time job.

His heart is broken and mine hurts too. Teenage romances suck.


What if I can’t let go when I hug him in his dorm room?

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We are snuggled in the family room for movie night and I want to freeze this moment forever. And when did his legs start taking up the entire couch?

Watching him help his sister with Geometry makes me think we’ve done something right.

He just emptied the dishwasher while blaring a Bon Jovi song. We are definitely doing something right.

Why didn’t anyone tell me how fast time flies? Oh, wait. Those moms with teens in the grocery store used to mention it.

What will senior year look like now that junior year ended so abruptly?

The familiar rites of passage for juniors and their parents have been disrupted, and so have my thoughts. My son was going to ask a new girlfriend to prom, but his promposal has been canceled.

In fact, everything is canceled for now.

His Friday nights are spent playing video games with his friends who suddenly all sound like men as they yell jokes and insults at each other. Part of me feels grateful that I’m not worrying about him on the road on a Friday night and yet, I long for the days when I slipped him an extra $20 for gas. “Thanks, Mah,” he’d say sheepishly before pulling out of the driveway, blaring Bon Jovi.

Those days feel like a lifetime ago now.

He’s going to be home longer than we expected and life looks very different than when we started junior year in the fall. We won’t be renting a limo and my house won’t be filled with dressed up teens as they head out for their big night. I’ll have to wait to get that picture of him standing awkwardly by the stairs in a tux.

The college visits will have to wait for a little while longer, too. But I’m still ignoring the FAFSA.

We still have time, I think. It’s only junior year.

Onward to senior year, son.

Christine Burke started the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops six years ago on a whim. Since then, her work has been featured on the Today Show, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and other parenting websites. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job.

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