I don’t think I ever learned in school a fraction of what I learn from my children. Childbirth alone was an education – even with the epidural.
From their birth on, my boys continue to enlighten me. Recently, my 7th grader switched middle schools and in doing so taught me a few new lessons about life.
- Change is okay. You know that song by Davie Bowie, Changes? Ch ch ch ch changes – turn and face the strain… Well, first off it turns out I have been singing it wrong my entire life. Who knew? I thought it was “strange” not “strain!”
After all, change is strange. My son had been at his school since pre-school and only had two more years left before he would graduate to go to high school. He loved his friends. He did well academically. I did not see any reason to change.
But he did.
He was open to the experience of an academic magnet school, to be the new kid, to start over.
Starting down a new path is probably one of the bravest things we can do. To risk the unknown is scary. To walk away from the safety, the comfort and the convenience of our situations to try something unfamiliar can be daunting. But by allowing the possibility of failure we also allow for the greater possibility of success.
Ch ch ch ch changes…
- Listening is really important. While we did not consider the magnet option until the beginning of the summer, I could hear the need for change throughout the past school year.
Only I didn’t listen.
When he talked to me about being bored at school, I thought he was just being a typical adolescent. I was not as open or as patient with him as I should have been. I thought the problem was with him. Rather it was with me.
We all go into situations and conversations thinking about our own point of view, and often are not very open to hearing anything, which doesn’t support that. However, listening to another perspective with the intent to understand is often more enlightening than interpreting conversations into our own viewpoints.
- Pigeonholes are for desks, not for people. I assumed my son would never consider leaving his school because I thought I knew him.
After all, he is my child and we have spent a considerable amount of time together.
I would have told you that he would NEVER switch schools. And, that he would be traumatized from that kind of change.
But I saw him from my own perspective, which is colored from my own experiences. I would have been devastated to switch schools at his age so I assumed he would have too.
One of the greatest things about life is that we can start over. We don’t even have to wait until tomorrow. We can start anytime we want. We tend to get stuck in our labels and in our self-defined regimens. Worse still is that we pigeonhole others.
We fail to see the multi-dimensions of our neighbors and ourselves. I am a mother, a Christian, a writer, a friend, a wife, however I am not singularly any of these things and together I am more than the sum of these parts.
Free yourself and the people in your life from the constraints of what you think you know. If you want to change, then change.
Fly free, little pigeon.
- Fight for what you want. Once I realized that my son needed something different than what I planned for him, I dedicated myself to making sure he had it. It wasn’t easy. There were forms, rules, bureaucracy and waiting lists. So, I made phone calls to guidance counselors, principals, county school administrators. I showed up uninvited and unannounced – I asked questions and asked for prayers (from the people working in the public school office no less — they probably prayed that they would never have to see me again.) I did everything I knew to do that remained in the bounds of sanity.
But the truth is, it was out of my hands once I turned in the application. Still, I couldn’t be complacent when my child wanted this so badly; when he felt like it was what he needed.
So I fought. Often, it really isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about knowing you did all that you could. It’s about showing someone else that you believe in them; that they are worth it to you; that even if you don’t prevail, you persevered.
There is really no losing that kind of fight.
- Endings are really just new beginnings. I hate when things are over. I get nostalgic and weepy. I cry until my eyes burn and my head aches. I don’t know if that is normal, but it’s just what I do so I try not to beat my self about it.
So of course, this was no different.
But I realize he couldn’t embrace all that awaited him and remain where he was. He was indeed giving up a very special community of friends and teachers, a place where he had been loved and cherished, a place I knew he would miss.
Still, at the moment of his goodbye he was on the cusp of a new beginning.
Sometimes in life we have to let go of something so we can make room for something else– new experiences await, new friendships, new ideas. The possibilities are endless and they begin with an ending.
So those are the most recent lessons I have learned as a parent. I am all the wiser for what my son taught me and only hope to be so brave as “I turn and face the strange… ch ch ch changes”
I really think “strange” sounds better than “strain.” I think I am just going to keep on singing it wrong.
Sorry, David Bowie.
Often children are our best teachers. What have you learned from your miniature-guru? And, perhaps just as important, do you think strange makes more sense than strain?! Ch ch ch changes…