Last year I wrote an article for our second daughter who was graduating from high school. If you can relate to this rite of passage, check out “Dear Daughter” below via the “Read More” link.
Today I am thinking about us—the parents. Whether you have a future graduate in the class of 2031 or a young adult daughter beginning the graduate school process, my advice is the same:
These moments will pass before you have a chance to breathe. So slow down and be present.
Let’s face it; summer is cool! It’s a time when we barbecue, watch the game in the stands or sign up for a race or two (or in my husband’s case: ten.) We figure out where to travel with the family and how to get there. We try to fit it all in. And that’s the problem.
At our house alone we are figuring out how to juggle the teenagers’ part-time job schedules, our work schedules, which camps everyone is going to, the family summer vacation and of course, Chris’ ten races. It’s all great stuff—don’t get me wrong. But I write this advice with our family in mind as well as yours: slow down this summer.
We took Andrew on a hike yesterday and I am embarrassed to admit, I was slightly frustrated with the little guy. Didn’t he know I was trying to get my cardio in while I took him on the hike? Didn’t he understand that we needed to keep the pace moving? Of course not! We found the buried treasure just ten feet from the parking lot—who knew treasures were so easy to find?! We then proceeded to study every gecko, every ant, every fascinating rock (that would be all rocks to Andrew) and there was a game of hide-and-seek in there as well. No, my heart rate didn’t soar into its target zone but my imagination soared as we pretended to be passed by dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes.
After our hike, I was racing around until my head hit the pillow and so it didn’t hit me until the next morning: Those are the moments that matter. The days are coming when I won’t have my college kid and my preschooler on a hike together with me. I can focus on my target heart rate then.
Part of taking care of your health is taking care of your heart. Go ahead and do your cardio and strength training. But don’t forget the other ways you take care of your heart. Breathe in the beauty that makes up your day. Smile at the imaginary dinosaurs that cross your path. Slow down and be present in the simple moments. Come on, we are just grown up kids, so grab an icy pop (blue’s my favorite) and enjoy your summer!
~ Jana, MA, CHWC
As your high school chapter comes to its final page, I find myself closing my eyes and watching the last 18 years fly by in a whirlwind. When I open my eyes, I want to turn around and see you running in the backyard, head lifted up to the sun and laughing with your sisters. I still see you as a four year old reprising the role of Rizzo from Grease, “Whatcha talkin’ about, Stud?” (I also still see your grandmother’s disapproving look at me as she wonders why I felt that was a DVD you should be watching nonstop.)
I see stacks of Legos and half-dressed Barbie’s. I remember freezing at soccer tournaments, melting in the summer sun at swim meets, celebrating the wins and wiping away the tears when your dreams slipped through your fingers. I remember the nights I would collapse into bed, questioning whether or not I was doing a very good job at being a mom.
As a parent I think we always question whether we have found the balance. The balance between helicopter and free-range parenting, the balance between being your confidante and being your disciplinarian, and the balance between holding you tightly and letting you go.
It hit me when we visited your future alma mater that the questions are yours now to answer. The next chapter is a time for you to define not only what career path you will follow but also what path of purpose you will choose. The next four years are about more than a degree and impressive GPA. It is a time for you to discover what moves you, what inspires you and what makes your soul sing.
You will question yourself. Expect that. You will have moments of pure bliss. Celebrate them. You will have moments of utter disappointment. Learn from them. Whatever you decide to do, ask yourself if it feels right in your heart and soul, for it is that place inside each of us where we find our own true rhythm.
I struggle, as I suspect many parents do, at this juncture. Did I teach you what you need to know to not just survive but to also thrive? Did I balance it all? Absolutely not. But life is not about balance. Life is about rhythm and it will change from season to season. I hope you have learned that life can be messy, so be prepared to clean up after yourself. But more importantly, I hope you learned that life is the greatest gift, so do something with yours. Find your passion. Find your own rhythm. And always remember to stop and breathe it all in. For one day you may be closing your eyes and remembering your child’s stacks of Legos and half-dressed Barbie’s.
Be bold, my child. This is your time. This is your chapter. Take risks and do not be afraid to fail. We learn lessons from every struggle. With little struggles the lessons are wrapped in ribbons and bows, but the big struggles, ahh, now those are handed to you on a silver platter wrapped in ribbons and bows and accompanied by shooting stars. And when you learn those lessons, don’t shout “Thank you”, but rather look to the starry sky and whisper your gratitude. And know, I am looking at that same sky and whispering thank you for you, for that little girl who would run into my arms and hug me ever so tightly. But I am also thankful for who you will become, for the story you have yet to tell.
It’s time for me to open my eyes and watch you walking away with your head lifted up to the sun and laughing as you embrace your future.
I love you to the moon and back,
No one said parenting is easy, and maybe that’s why I am met with far-off gazes and silence as our children graduate. Or maybe, each parent is just quiet and listening for his or her own new rhythm.