This week we celebrated the first day of sixth grade with Zippy. First days and birthdays mark the passage of time as it marches resolutely on. This time of year always brings up feelings of nostalgia. Zippy’s birthday is the end of August, as is Little Dude’s surgery anniversary and school beginning again. Time is a funny thing; it races and plods along, especially when it comes to growing up. One moment they are born, all soft and sweet. Then blink, eleven years old, middle school, tall, independent, responsible. Childhood is that small moment of time that is infinitely huge.
Children are a gift. That sounds trite, but true. They are ours for just a little while and then poof they are their own and hopefully, God’s. Our job as parents is to hold on, prepare them for the world, then let go and watch them soar. These are the three thing that help me to hold on to let go:
At nearly every baby shower there is that time to tell the new mom your best piece of parenting advice. My advice is always the same: listen to your gut. Cultivate an awareness of your children. When they are little it may mean learning to distinguish between the hungry cry, the tired cry and the hurting cry. As children get older a parent’s awareness may mean hearing something not said or interpreting a child’s actions and behavior. But that gut feeling never goes away.
Give children a soft place to land. Little Dude gets MRIs every year. For the little guys (under 5/6 years old) part of that procedure is sedation so they will not move for the duration of the test. This year when the Little Dude came out of his sedation his hard won walking skills were not functioning quite as they should be. He fell over, misjudged distances, could not walk in a straight line, in short it looked like he was three sheets to the wind. He kept trying to walk and kept falling, it was hilarious. I do not have any video; because I was too preoccupied making sure that he did not hurt himself. I wanted to be sure he had a soft place to land as he kept trying over and over . As they get older a soft place may mean a hug at the end of a rough school day, taking clothes into school, with understanding, because of an embarrassing accident, not laughing at foibles and failures or just being available to talk about uncomfortable subjects.
Boundaries define political entities like countries and states. They define areas of safety and danger. They give structure and order. Give children boundaries. They help define the world they give structure to that really scary place we call life. When I was little I learned to ride a bike. At first I was only allowed to ride up and down our street, and then I was allowed to ride around the block, then around the neighborhood. When I rode my bike outside the boundaries set by my parents I was not allowed to ride my bike for a little while. Children need clearly defined boundaries. Bike paths and bedtimes give structure. When boundaries are extended it provides little rites of passage.
The first day of school is a beginning, but at the same time it is a short stopover along the way. It provides a good waypoint, a place to reflect on the past and wonder at the future. It is a place to refocus. Once that happens, we should pick ourselves up and continue on, savoring those short, infinite moments of life that happen between birth and freedom. It is all about holding on to let go.