Summer, for parents of younger children, often means a long string of camps – here they are Camp Imagination, town-sponsored activities camps, Science Camp (hopefully again next year), Music Camp, swim lessons, volleyball and basketball camps, and more. Along with this wide variety of activities comes the burden of transporting the children to and from, and filling in the times between camps with some sort of activity and/or supervision.
It’s exhausting, as I can attest from personal experience. This year was a bit better for me, since I have two delightful teens that provided most of the transportation and off-time supervision for my youngest. However, as summer officially ends with the beginning of school, I am tired (as are my teens, I suspect), and ready for the steady routine of school to begin.
And while each school year offers that familiar routine, each year is different, presenting new challenges. In my case, one child (no longer a child) is leaving for college, one is entering her senior year (a budding adult), and my littlest (not so little any more) starts her first year of middle school. All of these rather large changes require leaps of maturity from each child; a parent’s attendant worries trail behind: How will she handle it? Will she be up to the challenge? How can I help her?
For my college-bound daughter, we go through the many small rites of passage into that first big step away from home, such as amassing items for housekeeping in the dorm – her very own computer, sheets, towels, and laundry soap – things she won’t have to share with a sister or parent. Such excitement in even the smallest changes! The big changes of college itself are still ahead and a mystery – but so thrilling. This young woman is counting the days until we make the drive to her new home-away-from-home.
The new senior at the local high school has a challenging mix of emotions with which to deal. She is excited and proud to have reached the pinnacle of achievement that is her senior year, but she is also likely feeling, understandably, a bit resentful at being left behind by her older sister. Impatient with the drudgery of familiar routines, part of her wants this year to be already past, so she too can be flying off to new adventures. Hopefully the flurry of upcoming activities and her own preparation for graduation and college will soon overcome that impatience. She’ll find she’s on her way too.
Then there’s my “little one,” who would really prefer to stay little forever and cannot. She is being thrust into middle school as her abilities and age dictate, without regard to what she would like.
“Mother, I wish I could go back and be little again,” she told me once.
“Oh baby,” was my response, “join the club! Most adults would love to turn back the clock too. But we can’t, can we?”
“No,” she said, clearly unhappy with the logical response.
So how will this girl who never had a chance to be truly “little” deal with middle school? Time will tell.
And mother will worry.
I have explained my job to all my daughters repeatedly over the years. My job is to prepare them for life, to help them fledge their beautiful wings and to take flight, to watch them soar away from me. My job is to help them achieve their dreams and goals as best I can. A parent’s job is the epitome of “planned obsolescence.” We must make ourselves unnecessary to the child, so that the child can fly with strength and self-confidence into adulthood.
It’s a hard job to do, to teach the ones you love most not to need you anymore. But then, love is much stronger than need. And love lasts forever, whereas childhood is oh-so brief.
And so, the new school year begins.