Three of our five kids have finished high school; a fourth, my son Ben, will graduate in a few weeks. It's not easy having your kids grow up and move out. I remember clearly when they were little; I was exhausted from not enough sleep, or tired of breaking up fights or answering the hundredth "why" question, dreaming about the day when I'd have an empty nest. I'd sleep in and make all the gourmet dinners you don't have the time for when you are driving carpool. I'd travel and have a clean house. And yet now, I'd do anything to stop the hands of time. So for all you tired frazzled parents, let me just say, I get it. And like all the parents who told me to cherish the time, I'm going to say it too. This time will go in the blink of an eye so do your best to live in the moment.
Obviously, you can't slow the hourglass and you're still going to be fed up and have a mountain of laundry but to the extent that you can, take time to do stuff with your kids. Play board games or read together. Go to the playground. Take pictures and videos. And when they're teenagers, which, for the record, is way harder than having newborns, keep doing it. Drag them to the movies or force them to go on a hike with you. Tell them to bring a friend; you may not get the same one-on-one time but they're less likely to gripe and you still get to do something together. Also, ignore folks who tell you that you have to eat at the table every night. We sit on the couch and watch the Simpsons while we have dinner. I don't feel the least bit bothered by that. We're all in the same room. We probably aren't eating organic kale salad (though if you like that kind of thing, I got you).* More likely, we're having Chinese take-out but I can live with that. Because the next thing you know you they are going to senior prom, deciding what to do post-high school, and sending graduation announcements.
So with that not too subtle segue, let me humbly offer my suggestion for the easiest graduation gift ever: a cookbook (and money). I'm a firm believer all graduates need to know how to prepare a few meals in addition to cereal and ramen. Even kids living in the dorm swill till have times where they'll need to cook: late at night, when the cafeteria is closed, etc. I particularly love the book, "Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day" by Leanne Brown. This will run you $10.49** on Amazon although I usually include a little money too because, let's be honest, kids really want cash. Anyway, it's a great book with all sorts of recipes and helpful suggestions. For example, they suggest buying one expensive pantry item each month (think a spice, olive oil, etc). If you spread out buying these over several months you won't feel their impact as much in your budget. They also have suggestions on what to do with leftovers and how to make the most use of eggs--the queen of versatile, affordable proteins. They have several pages devoted just to "Things on Toast". We don't eat a lot of meat, but the Filipino Chicken Adobo is to die for.
So there you have it. Best of luck to all the graduates and their families. You did it!
*For the record, I do have a favorite organic kale salad recipe. Check it out here if you're so inclined.
**Bonus-they donate a book for every one purchased! Or you can download a free PDF version.