My College:
Family Life

Graduation — My Mother's Day Gift

Marlene Kern Fischer

My middle son will graduate from college on Mother’s Day this year. When he was home a few weeks ago, he actually apologized to me for having his graduation “impose” on my “special day.” In response I told him, in all honesty, that I could not imagine a better way to spend Mother’s Day.

Watching my son graduate will be a joy I cannot fully explain to him. Upon discovering, through his university’s parent Facebook group, that he forgot to have his senior photo taken, I immediately called and urged him to go to the retake session, which he obligingly did. He might not have fully understood why it was so important to me but he wanted to make me happy, which I appreciated.

A friend, who told me she insisted that her son sit for his law school graduation portrait, said, “It’s a huge moment in the timeline of our family and I want it memorialized in a photo. Of course we’ll take pictures when we’re there, but graduation is hectic and stressful. I want to know we have a professional photo of this occasion.” Her feelings echoed mine completely.

When the pictures of my son came in the mail about a month later, I gazed at the image of him in his cap and gown, knowing that the pride and gratitude I felt was a mere warm up for the emotions I'll experience on graduation day.

Fischer grad photo

This will not be the first time I watch one of my sons graduate from college and (hopefully) it won’t be the last. However, I will be no less excited this time around than when my oldest son graduated college five years ago.

I am not the sort to make a big deal about most things; I find that putting too much importance on an event can make it feel anticlimactic. However, graduation falls in the “exception to the rule” category. It’s a momentous achievement worthy of reflection and celebration, a chance to pause and think about the road (with all its trials and triumphs) that led up to this day.

When I watch my son in his robe as he receives his diploma, I will be thinking about and remembering so many things:

  • The day he was born and holding him in my arms for the first time
  • The happy, inquisitive and incredibly affectionate toddler he was
  • How, as the middle child, he sought to distinguish himself in our family, as middle children often do
  • His middle school years, when he spent more time avoiding schoolwork than doing it, until one day he settled down, and began to soar
  • All the things that make him unique: his love of art, music and fashion; his sense of humor and adorable dimples
  • How thrilled he was to be accepted to his dream school and then, as a freshman, when he questioned whether it was the right place for him after all
  • The angst he felt about life and his future and how he forged ahead
  • How he learned that not everything is black or white and that compromising does not show weakness
  • How he pushed us away and then pulled us close again
  • How, even though my husband and I had attended the same college, he made it his own place, and in the process learned that the right attitude and outlook can improve any situation
  • All that he accomplished in his four years at college, the clubs he joined, the courses he took, the friends he made
  • How, when I congratulated him upon making dean’s list, he said to me proudly, “I’m killing it!”
  • How the confident young man graduating bears little resemblance to the teenager we dropped off at school four years earlier
  • How fast his college years went by
  • The endless possibilities his future holds

Graduation is a big deal because, in addition to representing academic achievement, it signifies the transition to adulthood as well the changing nature of our family. The pomp and circumstance herald a new era, both for our children and for us. Despite the crowds and daunting logistics of the day, I know it will be wonderful.

I have been with my son every step of the way — cheering, encouraging, worrying and, on this day, celebrating. Having my child reach this milestone on Mother’s Day feels completely right and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

In fact, it’s the best Mother’s Day gift I can think of.


Follow Marlene on Facebook, and read more of her wonderful stories on her CollegiateParent author page and her blog, "Thoughts from Aisle Four."


Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons and a newly gained daughter, food shopper extraordinaire, blogger and college essay editor. She recently published her first book, “Gained a Daughter But Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic.” A founding contributor at Collegiate Parent, her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Grown & Flown, The New York Times (Modern Love), Kveller, Her View From Home and The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Find her on Facebook at “Thoughts From Aisle 4.”
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