“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”~ Wayne Dyer
Summer is officially over and school is now in full swing for the new year. This year, however, is different for my wife and me than the last fifteen have been. Our youngest is entering his senior year of high school, a milestone for our family. We’ve been through this before with my oldest son, but this time is different, because this is the last high school senior year we’ll experience with our children.
The paradigm is not lost on me at this moment. For instance, as I watched my son leave for school on the first day, I had the delicate feeling of melancholy. I was aware that similar feelings were likely shared at all the elementary schools across the county where parents were dropping off their little ones for their first day of kindergarten. They were sad to let their young children out of their grasp, surrendering them to what would become their new life for at least the next thirteen years or more. Those years would be filled with emotions that run the gamut from bittersweet sadness to excitement, prideful moments, disappointing moments, and moments of celebration, recognition, challenges lost, and challenges overcome. Teachers who made a difference and sparked the young child’s imagination and interest, and those who made them feel anxiety as well. Friends made, friends lost, good times had, and bad times endured. These young impressionable mounds of clay would be molded by all their experiences—good, bad, and indifferent—by each relationship they encountered on an annual basis during these pivotal growing years.
As parents, we know our role is important, but so are their surroundings. As the Dutch inspirational speaker Alexander Den Heijer articulated, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” From home to school to work, everyone within their community plays a role in shaping their lives and impacting who they become. Some come away with good memories of this time period, while others would rather forget a lot of it. Each has his or her own journey to follow—and in their own way.
To that end, I think both my sons were fortunate to have good experiences, for the most part. Oh sure, there were occasional times when my wife and I were looking forward to a particular class being over, simply because of the immense challenges it presented for one reason or another. But overall, I think it went very well. It’s not over yet, not for my son, nor for many high school seniors around the area. Many will continue their journey to college, where they’ll discover new aspects of self-awareness and possibly their partners for life. That, however, is a completely different journey, one taken by someone older and facing more mature responsibilities and life decisions. For the first thirteen years, however, it’s about learning. Learning how to learn, how to function in this world, how to cooperate, obey guidelines that give society order, and how to be social and get along with people. And importantly, learning the discipline to do the things you don’t want to do, but yet must do in spite of it.
A lot happens in these thirteen years for the children, as well in the cumulative years for the parents that raise them during this time. The paradigm I came to understand is that it all starts with a tear in your eyes to let them go, only to end with a tear in your eyes to let them go once again. The first set of tears is a mix of sadness and anxiety for them, perhaps even more so than they feel themselves. The second set of tears is a mix of pride in their accomplishments, coupled with sadness once more that it all went by far too fast. Each set of tears is unique in their own way, and yet both experiences are powerful moments in the lives of parents.
Here’s to another great year of memories and moments to be shared, and for some of us, tears. Whether you’re just starting, coming to the end, or somewhere in-between, may the new school year bring excitement, new friendships, a renewal of old ones, learning opportunities that spark inspiration, and positive shared experiences that last you a lifetime. Cheers!