Our family has crossed a milestone and a threshold. Our oldest, Hannah, has graduated from high school. As the news is shared, many people have come up to me and spoken the proverbial and anticipated: “Congratulations on Hannah’s high school graduation!”
I, of course, smile, nod my head, and say: “Thank you, I’ll pass that along to Hannah.”
But after about the third congratulations-on-Hannah’s-graduation, I stopped, gave pause, and thought to myself: “Hey, I should take some credit here too! A chunk of that ‘congratulations’ does go my way!”
After all, it was her mother and I who pushed her off to school during those tough middle school years when she didn’t want to go. We were the ones who stood by her when teachers said she needed to step it up a bit. We were the ones who endured endless rolled eyes when we needed to be her parents, even when it would have been much more fun to be her friend.
Peel back the years. From that first night we brought her home from the maternity room of St. Olaf Hospital in Austin, Minnesota, until the time she received her acceptance letter to St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota, there are plenty of things to be congratulated for.
Congratulations for drying her tears when she cried, holding her hand when she took her first steps, and clapping for her when she spoke her first words. Congratulations for all the times we called in sick at work when she was the one who had the fever. Congratulations for bringing her to church, teaching her how to pray, making her angel costume for the church Christmas pageant, and for staying up until midnight to finish her Halloween costume when she changed her mind and wanted to be a princess rather than a witch.
Congratulations for taking her to the Me and My Guy Girl Scout Dance and for putting on your best suit when you escorted her. Congratulations for laughing at her knock-knock jokes and for not believing her when she said: “I hate you!” Congratulations for sitting through soccer games in the rain and for always finding something positive to say even when her team got shut out.
Congratulations for buying that first bike and for taking off the training wheels when it was time for her to ride on her own. Congratulations for holding your tongue when you taught her how to drive, and for seeing a young woman behind the steering wheel and not a five year-old-girl. Congratulations for bank rolling the tooth fairy, summer camp, countless sporting and other activities; and now, four years of college tuition.
Congratulations for… all of it! But of course, you do not need to be congratulated for any of it. For love compelled you to do it and the reward of love – and being loved – is the only congratulations you need.
And with the congratulations, with the love, there are equal parts sadness and joy; sadness that time has gone by so quickly and joy that you have been blessed during this time.
Congratulations on Hannah’s graduation? Yes, maybe. But the pat on the back is shared with a whole host of others. You see, it takes a family and a village to raise one child. And how thin the line is between congratulations and gratitude: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.