I can't tell you how often during a reveal that I hear a Senior ask their Mom the question, "why are you crying?"
I've heard it asked a few different ways:
"OMG, why are you crying?" - usually spoken in a high pitched, shocked voice followed by a hug and the offer of a kleenex.
"OMG, why are you crying?" - the tone is hard to place but it's kind of a now you finally see me as more than a kid kind of way.
And then there is the final one. The one that I have started to respond to on Mom's behalf. It's said in an embarrassing way. Like, why are you having feelings in front of someone? It makes me cringe when I see the look on Mom's face when the question is asked that way, but I understand it.
As a soon to be graduate, you feel like this is a big huge deal for YOU and IT IS! But it is for your Mom (both your parents, really) as well. While you are thinking about getting out into the great big world, making your own rules, doing your own thing, it's exciting. Mom is also thinking about you getting out into the big world and it's scary.
My simple answer while Mom composes herself is that it's hard to watch your kids grow up. She's loved you from the beginning and now you're going into the adult world.
I've gone through it twice and am not looking forward to the third one. With my oldest, I did my best to hide the tears. With my second, I surprised myself. I took her senior pictures, edited them, but when it came time to sit down and show my husband, I cried. And I got asked the same question I hear others asking their Mom.
You think shes crying over your pictures, she's not.
The one thing parenting books and random advice does not cover is the "letting go" part of parenting. We know it's coming. Some of us may joke about turning your room into a walk-in closet when you are gone but believe me, we aren't ready.
We move into your senior year with you focused on your grades, activities, getting you into college, or on your adulting path. And we are good. We are solid. Until we aren't.
Mom is crying because at some point she was in the crowd watching you at your game, concert, play, competition and she realized it was your last one. Her last chance to cheer you on. Or, it's the season of the Rona and neither of you got to experience that and she feels for you. She knows you're hurting, frustrated, sad and she's feeling all of it for you and there's nothing she can do for you. When you hurt, Mom does too.
Mom is crying because she is wondering if she's done enough to prepare you for adulthhod. Since the day you were born, you've been living in this kind of bubble-like world. She tried her best to protect you but she won't be able to do that anymore. She's wondering if she gave you the toolset you need to cook, clean, manage money, solve your own problems. She's wondering if you truly know how to avoid or remove yourself from tricky situations. Will you will be safe? She's wondering if she did her job. If she did enough to let you feel like you are loved and that she was a safe place to fall for you.
Mom is crying because just as your world is going to change, so is hers. You being gone is going to be hard on her. You are excited and ready to get out and move on with adulting. She's excited for you but it will be an adjustment for her. You need to know that she is going to feel a bit of emptiness. Family time, diner time, vacations - nothing will be the same and you will constantly be on her mind.
She is remembering when you were small. How tiny your hand was at birth, how it felt in her hand as she walked you across the street. She's remembering when you stopped wanting to hold her hand. She's thinking about the cuddles and giggles, how she no longer can rest her head on yours when you hug because you've outgrown her. She's going to miss your hugs.
Mom is crying because she loves you with everything she has and was capable of giving. It may not have seemed perfect but it was the best she had. She loved you before she knew you. She cried for you, fought for you, taught you, got angry for you, and sometimes at you. She picked you up when you fell, dusted you off and put you back on your feet. She encouraged you to keep going. She is your biggest cheerleader. She wiped your tears and then quietly cried her own when you weren't watching because your hurt became her hurt. And she did it all while wondering if what she was doing was "right." She watched you grow up and realized that the time went way too fast.
You are her world, her greatest accomplishment and truth be told - just as she helped shape you into who you are, you did the same for her.
And then all of a sudden those 17 or 18 years she spent pouring every emotion a person has into you feels like it's coming to an end.
Mom's aren't crying because your senior pictures are beautiful or even because you are graduating. She's crying because she's feeling an overwhelming sense of pride, sadness and a big, huge, giant love for you.
But mostly, she's crying because she knows it's time to let you go.