This evening, I was able to witness my lovely niece’s graduation from the eighth grade. As I sat in the jam packed, sweltering gymnasium, clapping on cue, attempting to keep my husband from dying of hunger and trying not to gawk at the short skirts (dear lord!), it occurred to me: This is the Beginning. The Beginning of Really Living. These children will go on to become doctors who will treat me when I am old, they will become educators who will teach my grandchildren, they will become scientists, astronomers, mayors, bus drivers, business owners, counselors. They will become parents who will raise children of their own who will one day walk across that stage and take a diploma in hand. The Beginning.
After the diplomas had been passed out, the children stood, we clapped some more. Husband is now convinced he may be fading further into starvation. The principal announced his closing speech. He spoke to his (now, former) students about going out into the world; he encouraged them to sincerely show gratitude to the family, teachers, friends who had helped them become the amazing young people they were today. And then he asked his own daughter who was seven years old to come and sit with him and look at the class of 2017. He explained to her that they had had some struggles with homework, tests, classes, teachers, each other. But that they had certainly had a lot of fun too. This principal, as he spoke to his graduated class, spoke as a parent. Effortlessly and from the heart. And not only did this group of silly, emotional, excited barely teenagers listen intently to every word which left the man’s mouth, his daughter did too.
As a Mama of a seven year old, I envy the opportunity to fully captivate my son in a lesson which may quite possibly last him his lifetime. Have fun. Be a kid. School is so important. When something seems to big you don’t think you can get through it, you always will. Ask for help when you require it and space when you need it. Our children are going to become powerful, inspiring, helpful humans. And it is our job to guide them. These students are on the cusp of high school where their new challenges will be peer pressure, drugs, sex and an array of bad choices. Like a new world of opportunity, these temptations spread before them as part of the landscape. The choices they make as young adults, are shaped by the values we instill in them through their childhood. It is so important. It is so important.
So that next time I want to give up. Check out from being a parent for a bit, I will try to remind myself of just how important it is to be the most responsive, patient, loving and determined parent I can be. Do I want them to see that Mama checks out when shit gets tough? Um, nope. They watch us. They are witness to every fit of anger, ever exasperated sigh, every swear muttered under our breath, every eye roll, every snide comment and the negative energy that seeps from our pores. We worry about violence, the media and video games but the truth is, our children see the ugly from us. And that’s depressing. But it’s also empowering. Why? Because we can control all of those things. And that is freeing.
Tonight, this principal took the time to be a parent. He showed his adorable, sweet little girl the good he was sending out into the world. He told her about the wonderful things these students would do. And all they would become. As she stared up at him, shiny blonde curls falling around her soft pink cheeks, she became convinced that she would become one of these gifted, inspiring graduates one day too. It begins with us. This was a lesson for me. Crazy breeds crazy but positvity leads to opportunity. We can give our children that opportunity. It’s worth it. They are worth the investment. This is the Beginning of the Really Living.