Another First Day

September 5, 2019

Today marks the last-first day of high school for my daughter as she is now a senior and the first day that she drove herself – and my son, a sophomore — to school. After the traditional (and typical) first day of school pics, my husband and I watched as they drove off. My thoughts wandered from the past to the future, and I reflected on what was and what will be. I ultimately landed with feelings of appreciation for the here-and-now.

Parenting is the most complex, challenging, and long-lasting job I have ever had. It is also rewarding, and a privilege to be an observer, mentor and cheerleader as my kids grow into their own. Each with their own personality, strengths, and challenges, I am committed to doing my best to not impede upon their growing independence. I want my children to be their own thinkers who make responsible choices, contribute to society and experience satisfaction in all that they do and yet I also want to share valuable life lessons that I have been directly and indirectly taught. I am trying to strike a balance between offering guidance and support and not leaving them with the perception that my words are mandates and expectations.

For the past few weeks, I have been trying (keyword: trying) to have conversations with my kids about the upcoming year. I was curious to know what they were thinking about and wanted to share a few recommendations. They weren’t having it and masterfully changed the subject, listened with disinterested facial expressions, and sometimes engaged with as minimal interaction as possible. I hope that with each effort, a little bit of what I said was absorbed. Had they not resisted; I would have discussed these six points with them. 

Manage your time: It’s all too easy these days to get sidetracked with things other than your primary responsibilities so be diligent and make smart choices about how you spend your days — make sure you allocate time to complete your homework, study for tests, and hand in assignments when they are due. It may be disappointing to delay watching another episode of The Office but face reality, your job is school. If you want to be successful, you will need to make responsible choices, even though they may not be desirable.   

Be kind: It is so cliché, but it is also true —  kindness breeds kindness. It’s ok (but not fun) to feel upset, cranky or tired but mixing that with unkind behavior is inexcusable. It’s hard to receive support from others when you are not treating them nicely. Remember, you are responsible for your conduct and know that when you treat others poorly, there is a good chance that they will react by mirroring your behavior by treating you the same way.

Set goals: I know you want to go to college so I recommend spending some time thinking about what it will take to be accepted (i.e., commitment to academic achievement, participating in extra-curricular activities). Do yourself a favor and figure out how your long term goals influence what you are doing now, which in turn, may guide you to thinking about the goals you want to set for yourself today.

Be wise, think ahead and be present: Your job is to go to school. It may not seem like fun, but please know that there may never be a time again in your life when you have this opportunity. Yes, this is an opportunity. Learning is the key that opens doors to endless possibilities — but you need to be wise today in how you show up in what you are doing. Be present and also know that today influences your tomorrow.

Bigger is not always better: Better is a subjective word that does not always reflect your wants, needs, and responsibilities. If you go along with this assumption, you might find yourself in situations that lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment. Be discerning, be wary of the word “always” and allow yourself time to decide what it is that you (not others) believe is “better.” 

Mindset: We have talked a lot about mindset, especially recently as you have been mourning the end of summer. I have continually reminded you that school is non-negotiable, but your mindset about it is. You can choose to walk through the school doors thinking the day will be bad and guess what, it probably will be. However, if you shift your negativity to a positive mindset, you might enjoy your day – even if you don’t love what you are doing. We all do things that we don’t want to do, but when we see the value, we choose to do it. By the way, it was this mindset that made changing your stinky diapers not such a bad experience.    

As with other first days of school, today I am feeling reflective. I remember watching both of my kids walk through the kindergarten doors, and this year, especially, I’m envisioning graduation day with the not-yet-known college name written on my daughter’s graduation cap. At the same time, I am continually reminding myself to be present and treat every day like it is another first day.