As we say goodbye to seniors, we welcome our kindergarteners
“Time waits for no man, and it won’t wait for me.”
–The Rolling Stones
Talk about the circle of life! On the same day we welcomed the parents of next year’s Kindergarten students, the seniors attended their last day of classes. (We also gave the parents yard signs saying, “Keystone Class of 2035” – a year that made us gasp.) Our wonderful kindergarten teachers provided guidance and advice for the parents of the soon-to-be youngest children on the main campus; simultaneously, faculty members and 12th grade students had their final discussions or worked through their last set of problems. While I would like to claim that we planned this day for its poetry, it turned out to be fortuitous rather than intentional. Sometimes, you just get lucky!
Similarly, over the past week and into next week, we celebrated and will hold closing activities or step-up ceremonies for children in other grades. We’ve recognized students for their outstanding work this year and wished them success in 2022-2033. We reminisced, told stories, recalled events from the year, and even waxed a little nostalgically. Our end of the year celebrations will culminate with graduation on May 29 at the Carver Center.
However, these commemorations provide more than fond laughter or warm fuzzies. They enable us to recognize life’s transitions. We honor what has enabled students to get to this point, and we look forward to what will come next with excitement and possibly some butterflies.
We know what we’re leaving; but we’re not 100% sure what’s around the bend. We may think we can predict what next year holds; however, since we’re encountering it for the first time, there are a multitude of possibilities. It’s as if life is one long series of “choose your own adventure” tales.
These moments of change in school also help us move from one intellectual plane to another. The elements of a new year challenge us to learn novel skills, refine our mindset, and perhaps flounder a bit; that’s ok and possibly even desirable. For it’s in the working through of something that we come to understand that topic and ourselves.
Many years ago, I heard someone say, “it’s not experience that is the best teacher; it’s bad experience.” When everything goes well, we may lose the opportunity to dig deep and discover parts of ourselves that we never realized were there. When we struggle (within appropriate means), we create ourselves anew and find out who we really are.
As parents, it can be difficult to observe our children go through transitional moments. Sometimes, we want them to stay the way they are so we can revel in the moment. After a recent lower school play, a parent asked wistfully if we couldn’t just keep her children at that age forever. This desire is perfectly understandable.
It can become all the more comprehensible when we see our children frustrated and grappling with new concepts or ways of doing things. As the old adage goes, “we are only as happy as our least happy child.” We can be tempted against our better judgment to jump in and bail them out. However, we also know intuitively that the short-term satisfaction of solving the most immediate problem can hurt them in the long run as our children fail to develop independently and hone their own coping skills.
So, how do parents handle these tectonic shifts? We acknowledge that we’re all going through a change. As our children progress, we move forward. It might be good practice to say out loud that we’re in a state of flux and to let our children know that this is perfectly normal and in fact desirable. Although change is scary, it is the norm. Bravery is not the absence of fear; on the contrary, it’s the recognition that something is frightening and then overcoming it.
Last weekend, my wife and I attended our younger son’s college graduation. Like other graduates across the country, he has worked hard to get where he is, and we were proud of him. However, like other recent alumni, he’s not sure what’s next.
As is the custom in our family during transitional moments, we wrote him a letter, in this case expressing our admiration for his accomplishments. Nevertheless, we also verbalized that a person’s 20s can be a difficult time. People often insinuate that after leaving college, you’re supposed to have the world figured out and know where you’re going; however, many alumni don’t and are afraid to say that out loud. We expressed support as he navigates the road ahead and acknowledged that there will be ups and downs along the way. Outside of that, there’s not much more we parents can do. Just like our Cobras at every grade level who are moving up or moving on, he will make his way through good times and bad, and as his parents, we will be there to cheer him on and console him as best we can.
As we all end the 2021-2022 school year and move into summer, we wish you a healthy and positive transition for the journey that lies ahead.