I know many of you are in the midst of graduations right now. We have two in our house, as our daughter moves from St. Bonaventure School into Orange County High School of the Arts and our son — gulp — is off to college after graduating from Mater Dei.
Each year at this time, I wonder how parents and grandparents feel as they prepare for one of their flock beating their wings off into the world, taking flight on this next chapter of life.
And now I know.
Our son, Charles, will be attending USC this fall, and neither he nor we, could be happier. This has been his dream for many years, and to have it come to fruition is certainly a wonderful thing to behold.
Also, we've lived here long enough to have gotten to know many wonderful young people. Things like coaching Little League and basketball teams and speaking in school about writing have allowed me the good fortune to get to know many students who now find themselves poised for the next step.
To all of you parents who, like my wife, Jean, and I, may find yourselves feeling pangs of early separation pain while dabbing at tears that seem to appear from nowhere, congratulations on a job well done. This is what we worked so hard for; this is what matters to us most in life: how we have raised our children to get to this point.
And to the students, no matter what your plans are after high school, I wanted to offer a short verse, something I was writing for our son. I know it may be sort of corny, but sometimes, as my family can attest, I simply cannot help myself. I have just been impressed by so many of you in so many ways that it felt right to share this, in your honor — I hope the sentiments are appropriate.
"It's time to go into the world, to start to make your mark
And as you ready, some simple thoughts, before you do embark
I know you'll hear advice galore, so excuse this little poem
We parents like to make our points, before you're off to roam
Be bold, be brave, be not afraid to reach and stretch and strain
For you will learn as a simple rule; it's then you'll start to gain
Play fast and loud, stand tall, be proud, and you will go so far
Hold true the faith and principles that make you who are
Hard work and sweat and excellence can never be replaced
Good thing too, since those are things you always have embraced
And know that you will always be in thoughts and prayers each day
We'll miss your voice, your face, your mess — what else can we say?
The tears, the scrapes, the lazy days, the smile, your precious face
The times we spent so endlessly, moments we love to trace
Our baby once so long ago; at least that's how it seems
The sand castles, the tales and treats, the friends, the schools, the teams
The books, the trips, the memories, the innocence of your dreams
Hold them tight, oh beautiful child, they're more real than they seem
Dreams guide you through the night and lead you down the path that's yours
Your future, it is oh so bright, so beat your wings and soar
With that we bid you best, our child, on gentle wings, good luck!
We're always here, but you know that — with this family you're stuck.
It's time to go into the world, you've got your seeds to sow
Just one last thing:
we love you more
than you may even know!"
With that, congratulations to the classes of 2011. As Michelangelo said, "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." So go — aim high, don't be afraid to fail, and believe in yourselves. You have much to be proud of.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at email@example.com.