As the clock ticks down on this final day, you are officially the parent of a seventh-grader.
This line from an email of one of my daughter’s favorite teachers on the last day of school struck a chord with me. Surrounded in a parish where many youth are graduating and moving on to the adventures of college, or hearing from relatives about their own family accomplishments, this end of the school term is naturally a time for parents to look back and ahead.
Swimming and Bicycles
My daughter’s first year in middle school came with some difficult transitions. She moved from a smaller, more hands-on environment to a much larger, more difficult one. There was more homework needing better time management. There was less guidance meaning more self discovery and practice. It reminded me about some of her earlier struggles.
In both swimming and biking there is that singular “a-ha” moment where the parent has to let go. She takes the plunge and that first breath underwater. She finds that balance point and keeps peddling. Up until that point, you are there. But beyond that point, you are actually in the way.
It’s ironic. I was enabling her, despite all the hands-on guidance, to push away from me and do it for herself.
Learning to play your song
It remains a mystery how exactly one goes from being told or given what to do to understanding how to do it for one’s self. It’s an odd thing. For as many times as my daughter has watched us make her favorite mac-n-cheese from a box, she somehow learned to cook instant ramen long before she figured out how to make that dish herself.
Her greatest example of appropriating something was memorizing her second piano recital piece. This was the first time that she couldn’t just read it all the way through. She had to break it down into parts and phrases that she could manage. These were not always the same as what I or her piano teacher might choose. But somehow — like the gift of grace — how she broke it also guides her to make it whole again and make it her own. That was a journey we trusted her to take.
Picking up and Putting Down
This year, she also chose her second instrument, the violin. Unfortunately, for the upcoming year this class conflicts with art, another interest of hers. I wish she didn’t have to choose between the two, but she chose art.
As I watched her play with her class in the Spring Concert, I was a bit nostalgic about what she would be giving up. The violin was my first instrument. I played in a number of orchestras and am even on a few recordings. Though I don’t need my child to be like me, I knew I had experienced something wonderful that I wanted for her as well.
It delights me that she still wants to play violin for me or with me. I’m just not sure how far we might progress outside of classes or how that makes up for playing in an orchestra. It’s a different journey.
Seeing Parts or Wholes
As parents trickle into my parish over the summer to enroll their children into Religious Education, I see them through this prism as well. It is easy to assume much about a child or family’s knowledge of the faith based on things like how many years they’ve been enrolled, how often they go to mass, what prayers they know, and so on.
It’s harder to see things like what songs have they made their own. Harder still to see is what choices between one good and another did they have to make. One makes such decisions not quite knowing or seeing the whole journey mapped out.
I think these end of year or graduation moments are truthful moments. Like the Kingdom of Heaven itself, they are the “already and the not yet.” In those moments we see our child so fully themselves, but we also see parts that came and know of pieces still to come.
I also think that celebrating sacraments is a bit like that. It is a glimpse into seeing how God sees and experiences who we are and we get to see who God is as well. Our pieces are drawn to God’s whole.
What journey is your child remembering or taking to heart? What is your role in taking apart or pushing toward the greater whole?
Copyright 2018 Jay Cuasay