Thoughts on Prom Night


I was standing on the sidelines, technically behind the sidelines, tucked into a grove of pine trees. Anywhere else I stood in the expanse of this historical mansion, and I’d end up in the background of somebody’s photos.

Traditionally, prom is an event for only juniors and seniors, but if the theatre community likes a person, they swallow that person whole. Even a freshman person. It’s the best thing about the theatre community. That, and all that crazy talent.

There are party buses, Including one that looks like the tour bus straight out of The Muppets Take Manhattan.

I looked around the acre filled with clusters of teenagers. Guys in their suits and ties, young women in their sleek silhouettes. The style is so lovely this year. They look like rows of Disney princesses without even meaning to.

Some of these young women look like they were made for this, like they’ve been spilling charm and walking in heels all of their lives. Others, I wish I could discreetly pull aside and say, “It’s okay, sugar. Let’s practice together.”

I watched my son from far away, giving him space and also taking pictures of him with his people. So handsome in his tie, so confident in his circle. A dozen girls had their photos taken with him, which never would have happened in my day, because we were each paired off and enmeshed with the one who brought us. I do love the freedom of today’s girls, who buy the dress and the shoes and never wait to be asked.

I thought, “I bet all the girl-moms knew the details of the night. It’s the girls who pull this thing off.”

All of us boy-moms are checking with each other, stitching together pieces of information, and asking permission from our sons if we can stay nearby and watch as long as we promise not to stage any photos or fix any bra straps. We gave the young men our debit cards before we left home, just to make sure there’s enough money to go around.

I thought, “I bet all of these young people think I’m so old. I know what I thought of the moms standing around while I was having my prom photos taken. I know what they think of me.”

Part of me feels like my own glorious prom nights were only a decade ago, not that far in the rearview mirror. Another part of me has to keep a fresh pair of pajamas by the bed every night in case of hot flashes. That’s a very, very real part of me.

I waited until they left because I’ll never be the one to walk away first.

I celebrate every single milestone. I do.
But this one felt like a doozy, as hard on my heart as watching him blend into the line of six-year-olds on the first day of kindergarten.

He texted me a heart emoji.
❤️thanks, mom. I love you.

He doesn’t apologize for being grumpy at me when his tie wouldn’t cooperate, but I know it’s implied.

I thought of the essays I have read about how raising a son feels like slowly, steadily being broken up with. If we do our job right, they find somebody else to adore.

I sat in the car with no idea why I was crying.
And also, with every idea of why I was crying.

I stayed up until 2:00 to bring my guy home from AfterProm. I stayed up until 3:30 to listen to all of his stories.

He might be slowly breaking up with me, but for a little longer, I’m still the girl he comes home to at the end of the night.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. I’m not even a parent and this brought a lump to my throat!

  2. Just to let you know, if you think this is tough (!), wait till his bride to be walks down the aisle! I cried for months leading up to that day each time I listened to the song I chose for the mother/son dance. ‘My Wish’ by Rascal Flatts. Listen to that & you’ll really be crying !!! BUT! This is the way God planned it.

  3. Tricia, I left a reply but it did not post – loved this piece, especially the killer last line!

  4. That last line! “He might be slowly breaking up with me, but for a little longer, I’m still the girl he comes home to at the end of the night.” You win the Parenting Pulitzer for this one, Tricia. This needs to go viral for every parent on Prom Night. – from a loyal reader now in Norway 🙂

  5. Nice! Thank you!

  6. So beautifully written, Tricia. I have 3 daughters and 1 son, and the way you explain ‘the breaking up part’ as the son grows older is spot on and so perfect. You’re doing a great job with your boys!!

  7. I do not have a son but I ‘feel’ this post. ?

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