Today is the last day of school for my kids. At the closing ceremonies today, Caitlin will stand with her class and sit down as an 8th grader; Aidan will stand with his and take his seat as part of the new 5th grade; Sierra will hand a red rose to her 8th grade buddy, just as her buddy welcomed her at the beginning of the year, and will sit down as a second grader to watch “the buddies” leave the school the same way they entered in 1st grade – under an arch of flowers.
There is a beautiful symmetry to the closing ceremonies, tradition and predictability. The ceremony doesn’t so much provide false security and safety as it supports and embraces all that has been learned and all that is still unknown.
May troubles be less
And blessings be more,
And nothing but happiness come to your door.
And may you have luck
Wherever you go
Your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.
May wind be at your back
And sun be overhead
May friends be at your side
Wherever you are led.
We sing this song at closing every year – parents, kids, faculty, and staff. The words blend farewell, see-you-later, and I’ll-always-be-here. And for all the well-wishing in the song, there remains a sense of journeying into the unknown where there will be troubles (hopefully less) mixed with the blessings (hopefully more), that the wind will blow and that friends will be needed.
As the kids step away from school today, they won’t stop learning. None of us will. Yet, despite the work of teachers, parents, and peers, some lessons must be learned alone. Here are some of the things I want (and try) to teach my kids, but that I know they have to learn on their own.
- Everything is a choice. Every choice has a consequence. Whether you do a thing or leave it undone, you will have to live with the result.
- Use your words. When you speak from your heart, it has a greater impact than you can possibly realize.
- People who are “mean” are often hurting. Sometimes if you can find their hurt, they can no longer hurt you.
- Someday you will be most grateful for the teacher you complain about most today.
- Don’t be so quick to brush off that kid who annoys the crap out of you. You two may someday have more in common than you will with the person who is your “best friend” today.
- The “weirdoes” often become the most interesting adults.
- Everyone has pieces that connect – the punk and the cheerleader, the cowboy and the Goth, the bookworm and the skater – underneath the clothes, hair, and accessories, we have common stories, pains, and desires. (The Breakfast Club should be mandatory viewing for all 14 year olds.)
- No one can fix your argument with your friend – no one but the two of you.
- Yes, you’re right. You absolutely will not remember that homework assignment 20 years from now. However, the discipline muscles that you trained in completing it well and on time will support you throughout your life.
- Yes, you’re right again. It’s not fair. Life is neither fair nor easy, but it’s that way for everyone. So, do you think maybe that means it really is fair after all?
- When someone rejects you or says something cruel, they aren’t exposing your shortcomings, they are revealing their own insecurities or capacities.
- Sometimes you get the most out of the lessons or activities that “suck.”
- Yes, pushups really are important.
- You don’t know yet who you are or what you really like. You won’t know for years, if ever. So try everything and learn what you can from it before rejecting it.
- You are your only reliable mirror. No one else can show you your true self. Not your classmates, your teachers, your siblings, not even your dad and me.
- You don’t find yourself when you are doing the safe, easy things that you know well. You find out who you are when things are hard, scary, or just plain crappy.
- The only feet you can stand on and still balance are your own.