The days are long, but the years are short.
There may be no more poignant adage to describe the bittersweet passage of the early parenting years than this quote, credit for which goes to writer Gretchen Rubin. And as I contemplate the imminent back-to-school season, that tell-tale mix of trepidation and anticipation that always attends that transition is hitting me particularly hard.
My baby Maya just turned 18 — the last of our brood to launch after over 33 years of parenting (could this possibly qualify us for “Guinness World Records” status!?). Maya heads east to college this fall, and while I am thrilled for her impending adventure, I am neither ready nor prepared for it, to use Maya’s high school graduation speech theme with a mama-bear twist on the concept.
I read chef-mama Jackie Freeman’s top 10 ways to feed your back-to-school crew (50 Ways to Rock the Back-to-School Transition) and found myself suddenly in tears. Her rockin’ foodie recommendations read as prophetic lessons for life. But how can I possibly plan ahead (Jackie’s #1 tip) for this moment when my gregarious, binge-TV-watching, yoga-class buddy is now heading out the door?
No doubt, we’ll both survive and thrive in this next phase of our lives. I get a euphoric feeling when I imagine the extraordinary academic and life learning that awaits her. I’m also ecstatic that my husband and I aren’t panicked about empty nest syndrome. We plan to hit every babymoon destination listed in Oh, Baby – What a Trip, but we’ll just be the wise old “Bubbie-mooners” instead!
Fast forward to Jackie’s #10 tip: Foster independence. Check! Maya has demonstrated fierce independence since birth. She’s deeply rooted in our family’s values, while being spirited, empathetic and outrageously hilarious — all qualities seamlessly laced together with a golden thread of zeal that has progressed her to this moment and will continue to catapult her into the future.
Reading Dr. Laura Kastner’s piece, How to Motivate Your Child and Positively Influence Their Zeal, had me steeped in reflection. As a 4-year-old, Maya’s precocious goal-directedness had her dictating every word of each person’s speaking part in her directorial-debut theatrical performance of “Flamly,” a play about our family. Dr. Kastner wisely encourages us to appreciate the gift of our kids’ zeal — what she calls the “‘miracle grow’ of selfhood” — while helping to safely direct youthful exuberance toward their most positive and productive aims.
And now, my parenting is done: My kids are launched.
Denise Juneau, however, has 53,000 kids to watch over. Our newest Seattle Public Schools superintendent mesmerized me when we met to learn more about her focus and passion to improve learning outcomes for all students in the district. Her calm optimism, insightful message of commitment, clear-minded vision for success and seemingly mystical powers have us cheering her on. “There are no broken children — there are only broken systems,” says Juneau, who should be applauded for her tenacious efforts to fix those systems.