Friday, February 16, 2007


(News-Herald, February 15) Graduation is still months away, but it’s not too early for senioritis. If you’ve had children who graduated from high school, you know senioritis. “itis” is medicalese for “inflammation of the fill-in-the-blank.” In the case of senioritis, what becomes inflamed is the high school senior’s sense of self-importance.
The best-known symptoms are the most obvious. For seventeen years, a person can be the most mild-mannered, selfless, kind, considerate and lovable human being ever spawned. But by April of senior year, that same person will become so selfish, with such a ginormous sense of entitlement, that he will become unrecognizable.
By April, a high school senior knows that she is the center of the universe, sees no reason to believe that there is anyone anywhere doing anything more important than whatever she intends to do today.
Nature’s balance is at work here. Babies are cute and cuddly and adorable so that we don’t kill them when they’re screaming at 3 am. High school seniors are demanding and selfish so that we won’t miss them so much when they go.
But there are other side effects of senioritis as well. Take, for instance, senior panic.
Senior panic sets in when the senior combines counting skills and a calendar. For instance, as of right now, a Venangoland senior has only sixteen weekends left in his high school career. Subtract weekends that are already claimed by Prom, school plays, sporting events-- that might leave only a dozen.
Only a dozen weekends left to ask out that Interesting Someone that you’ve been imagining you might some day date. Only a dozen Saturdays to sleep in. Only a dozen weekends to spend with the friends that you may never see again for the rest of your life (and if you do, it won’t be the same). Only a dozen weekends left to square away the hurts and misunderstandings; only a dozen weekends to say those things that you always meant to say.
But it’s not only the seniors who start hearing the ticking of the clock.
Parents of high school seniors experience their own senioritis. Here they are, looking at this person whom they remember fairly vividly as a tiny blob of squalling flesh, realizing that this child is now about to walk out into the world, to be expected to function more or less like an adult. And the parent is not ready to let this adultish child go yet.
I don’t mean the sad loss when a close friends moves away and you know you’ll miss them. That’s certainly part of the package, but I’m talking about the same sense of panic that you felt when the teacher said it was time to pass in your test, and you knew you weren’t done yet.
Suddenly the parent is looking at the proto-adult and thinking, “But I’m not done! There’s Really Important Stuff I didn’t finish imparting yet!”
One minute you’re looking at the child who has inspired nothing but love and pride, and the next minute you’re thinking, “Good lord! How can anybody hope to hold down a real job when he can’t even comb his hair and pull up his pants!? Why in heaven’s name did I not get around to stressing the important of pulling up your pants!!!”
On their best days, parents feel the same love, pride and trust in their senior that they’ve always felt. But under the sway of a full-blown senioritis panic attack, parental units see an oncoming train wreck. They do not panic out of a sense of personal pride, but something far more powerful—the sudden overwhelming fear that a person they love most in the whole world is headed for disaster. And it will be their fault.
So, in a pre-emptive strike against guilt, matters that have not been an issue for years and years are suddenly the serious topic for talks entitled “We’d Better Sit Down and Talk About This Right Now, Young Lady, Part XXIV.”
This, in turn, aggravates everybody’s senioritis. At the very moment the senior is enjoying the belief that he is, in fact, the Master of the Universe, here comes the parents to suggest that he is actually a mass of glaring flaws.
Rinse and repeat for the next five months, until June comes and we find many people of both generations having a good cry—not sure why, exactly, but sure they can use it.
It is, in the end, just a phase for all involved. The Master of the Universe will, indeed, find the universe generally unimpressed with his preternaturally high self-esteem. But the Master’s parents will usually discover that their child is tougher and more adaptable than they had hoped. Good luck to them all over the next six months.

No comments:

From my Flickr