Tis the season of academic transitions, otherwise known as ‘graduation’. It happens every year but for the parents of the graduates, it’s more like having a birthday on February 29th, a leap year sort of thing, slowing down the marking of time to once every four years. The time passes in two segments. Four years of high school and, if possible or desired, four years of undergraduate studies at college.
Two of mine are transitioning this month. One from high school and one from college. The one from high school is all eager and can hardly wait for the summer to pass so that she can be off and ‘on her own’. The one from college is feeling a tad intimidated and uncertain as to what the upcoming few years may hold. The contrast between them is rather stark, quite appropriate and, at times, humorous. Listening to the 22 year old veteran trying to advise the 17 year old rookie is to witness compassionate pointlessness. The 22 year old has already forgotten that 17 year olds are absolutely sure that they know it all.
From my perspective all along, the genuine development during these years has had little to do with the academics. Grades are not the indicator of progress, success or of well being. We all know that within a course of study, there are numerous ways to score well and learn nothing. There are also lots of experiences beyond the classroom that can be damaging or detrimental to their physical or emotional health.
So, for what it’s worth, my indicator of their healthy development has been to observe their responses to pressure and stress. Whether it has involved a coach, a teacher, a peer or a general situation that they found themselves in, I’ve paid attention and listened carefully as they recounted their stories to me (or to each other) as to how they reacted or handled the pressures and stressors they were feeling.
It has enabled me to be subtly but proactively useful. As a parent, that as good as it gets.
You see, I remembered how, when I was younger, I never knew a middle way with pressure or stress. I either gave in easily and completely, which never felt honest, or I wouldn’t budge an inch, which felt equally off the mark. It took me a while to learn how to be centered, to be true to myself and honest with my thoughts and feelings.
I’ve tried to pass that along to many people, including my children.
To their credit and not mine, they seem to have gravitated towards centeredness and away from the extremes.
As a parent, from my perspective, this is as good as I ever dreamed it could be.
I am not so much proud of them as I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
It’s a feeling I’m sharing with many other parents these days.