graduation Shaunti feldhahn

It’s okay to cry at high school graduation—unless you’re the Commencement Speaker

I can’t believe she’s a high school graduate.  

After 18 years of late nights of studying, STEM projects and AP tests, thousands of hours of volleyball, uncountable laughs and tears, dozens of college essays, eight acceptance and rejection letters, and a whirlwind of graduation parties, my daughter just graduated from high school.  

As I listened to the program and watched my little blond 5’-tall girl beaming with excitement amidst a sea of her giant looking high school peers (What is she doing there? I thought, She was in kindergarten just five minutes ago!) I could feel the tears about to burst through the careful dam I had built against them.

Which was a problem. Since I was about to be called up to the stage to give the Commencement Address.  

Earlier this year, I had looked in disbelief at the head of our school, as he asked if I would be the speaker.  

“Are you sure you want me this year?” I asked. “Wouldn’t this be better during a year when I wasn’t at risk of bursting into tears??”

He chuckled knowingly.  “Oh no,” he said, “We always want someone connected to the graduating class.”

Which is how I came to be sitting in the front row, watching the little blond head under the navy blue graduation cap, squeezing Jeff’s hand, and trying to hold back the tears pricking my eyes.  

I was suddenly struck by something else the head of school had told me in that conversation. He had explained that the Commencement Speech was the only part of the event that was truly for the graduates. He said, “Honestly, the Commencement Ceremony is really more for the parents. They need it.”

As I watched the morning unfold and build toward the moment each name was called, and each young adult walked across the stage, I realized: we parents really are the ones who need it. During my talk I asked the students “how many of you felt ready to be done with high school and move forward since the beginning of senior year?” and nearly every hand was raised. They had been pulling forward, chomping at the bit, pawing the ground for a year. We have been the ones holding those taut reigns and asking God to give us the strength to let go.

Which is why we cry. Because this is the moment that tells us it is time.

We have raised them up in the way they should go – and now they go.

We have fallen to our knees in prayer, and stood at windows late at night, anxious for them to come home – and now they are leaving that home.

We have disciplined and corrected, set boundaries and given freedoms – and now, suddenly, their life is completely their own to live.

We have held back those reins, feeling the strain from those young chargers ready to bolt, and knowing they will take our hearts with them when they do.

It is time.

Run, my daughter. It’s all yours.

Looking for encouragement for your life and relationships? Learn about the little things that make a big difference in every relationship, from marriages to parenting. Subscribe to updates from Shaunti here!

Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).

Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.

Visit for more.

This article was first published at Patheos.

Share With Others

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy