If all goes according to plan — and that’s a mighty big “IF” — this weekend I will be in attendance at two high school graduations. These are decidedly important ceremonies for me and my family. They are for my two oldest sons, Blayze and Bryce McBrayer.

It’s a mighty big “IF” because as I write these words each of them have a few credits that hang in the balance. With a lifelong propensity to push their father to the razor thin edge of sanity, this comes as no surprise and, honestly, I didn’t know if I would live to even get them this far along.

When they were toddlers in the torrent of sippy-cups, Teletubbies, rubber sheets, and the endless, cumulative hours of The Cartoon Network, graduation seemed like a blissful eternity in the distance. In the agony of puberty and the upheaval of adolescence, it couldn’t get here fast enough.

But here we are. Tassels with be turned, diplomas bestowed, and whatever is next will arrive, ready or not. Likely, it will be “not” — as in not ready — but who is really prepared to become an “official” adult anyway? I wasn’t ready and neither are they. That’s OK, because now that school is over for these two young men, their real education begins.

For example, algebra is hard, no doubt, but it is an elementary course of study when compared to the brutal mathematics of paying the bills, stretching dollars, and planning one’s financial future. The same can be said of English class. Learning about one’s native language is not nearly as difficult as learning to actually communicate with people.

And what is it with all these studies of psychology and human development? These are required to be sure, but the real proving ground is in one’s actual relationships, friendships, and navigating the inevitable conflicts at home, work, and in the marketplace.

By no means am I scoffing at the last dozen years my sons have spent in the classroom. That is exactly where they needed to be for that period of their lives, but it was all preparation, and their recent matriculation is simply a doorway. It is that next, necessary step toward the future. That’s why graduations are called “commencements.” Nothing is ended; everything is just beginning.

The boys’ mother oftentimes asks me, usually in frustration, “When are they ever going to get it?” It’s a good question, one to which I don’t have a precise answer, but a question I almost always respond to with a smile. It’s that knowing smile that only those of us who have lived a few decades past our own high school graduation can offer.

We know that life is a far more thorough instructor than any parent or teacher ever could be. And we know that life imposes its lessons upon us whether we are ready or not. Yes, these boys will “get it,” like all of us, if — and that’s a mighty big “IF” — they are willing to learn.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.org.