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On the fatherhood journey, certain moments stand out like stars against the night sky—bright, beautiful, and fleeting. As my own sons grow, one such celestial event is about to occur: The oldest is graduating high school! The approach of this major milestone has caused me to reflect: How can I make the most of this significant occasion on my son’s journey into manhood and my journey as a father?

The Day Arrives

Picture this: A gymnasium full of happy family and friends, echoing with the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Your son or daughter, resplendent in cap and gown, takes the stage to receive a handshake and a certificate that represents years of hard, often agonizing, team work. This isn’t a recognition of your child’s success only, but of yours as well—the result of a collaboration between you, your child, and the handful of people who invested their time and tears into this milestone moment. 

Family celebrating son's high school graduation.

Looking at your child, you feel caught in an odd whirlwind of emotions (as fathers often do). Pride swells, but also mingles with a sense of loss for the little one who used to reach for your hand to cross the street. 

Savor those feelings! If you’re like me, then you’re inclined to get distracted by the frenzy of it all. As graduation comes, you’ll think about the schedule of the day, whether Grandma will be comfortable in her seat, or whether you should have reserved dinner later to allow more time to fight traffic out of the parking lot. Don’t do that! 

Present Fatherhood

Father teaching daughter how to drive.

I’m tempted every day to focus on logistics rather than on my son. Now more than ever, I need to be deliberate with my time and energy. I need my son to know that I’m more proud than it seems possible for one person to be. I can’t contain my excitement. Sure, I have anxiety, too, just like he does, but that’s nothing compared to my awe at the man he’s become. 

When these milestones come, let your child know that you’re present in the moment…and the moments leading up to that moment. It’s the little everyday interactions, not just the flashy celebrations, that lay the foundation for a strong relationship between parent and child.

If your daughter or son is graduating this year, then you have precious few moments left. There are only 20 or so weekends between now and that fateful day. Make ‘em count.

Making It Count

Here are some ideas on how you can prepare for and celebrate this important milestone:

  1. Take pictures and videos and make a ridiculous montage that you can share on social media. This is the modern equivalent to shouting from the rooftops. Your child will know you’re proud and you’ll have a great keepsake that you can look at in the future and reminisce.
  2. Consider making a weekend-countdown checklist. If you have just 20 weekends left before your child graduates, then what if you made a list of things that you can do together each weekend before that day? You won’t regret spending an hour or two hiking together, playing games, fishing, or going on a drive.
  3. Tag team with your child in order to write thank-you cards to the people in your lives that have helped to make this moment possible: grandparents, favorite teachers, coaches, neighbors. This exercise will remind your son or daughter to acknowledge others and to pause for gratitude and reflection.
Father talking with daughter on couch.

What are some other ways that you plan to make the most of your fatherhood milestones?

For more tips on positive parenting, check out our blog and our free workshop for California dads, the R3 Academy for Dads.