A letter to the parents at my kids’ alma mater, Minnetonka High School:
Today is the first day in 17 years I haven’t had the first day of school dash. I (sort of) envy you all! If it’s your first day of high school, know that there are so many moments ahead — great and awful. Sorry, but it’s true. Always remember it’s the bad stuff that gives us the perspective to know what is truly awesome. It’s those eye-rolling “you don’t understand” heated discussions that make you cherish those times when you find them watching a Pixar movie they adored as a kiddo, and ask you to sit down and watch too.
BTW: the school is not that big once you get to know it (do friendly presence and see for yourself), they really don’t need lockers or coats to survive, and every kid’s path is the right one. Don’t let anyone tell you differently: I refused to allow my daughter to take more than two honors classes her freshman year, and some gasped. The teachers and counselors thought I was brilliant. She graduated honors roll every quarter, with tons of AP and IB. My other one? Barely graduated, in part because “they” told me he had to do honors classes and it screwed his path up. He’s good now, but his academic career would’ve been better if I had listened to my gut. Listen to yours. But know you will make mistakes. It’s cool.
If you are sending your last one off on their senior year: yes, you will say “last time” a lot this year. Don’t dwell: enjoy. If you see a lot of your kid, that’s great. If you have to ask for proof of life snapchats because they are so busy soaking in all the lasts, that’s fantastic, even if it doesn’t feel that way. It means they are ready. And when they are finally gone, it makes the emptiness seem normal!
Encourage them to do EVERYTHING.
Take risks — pick the college that you have never heard of, rather than the one everyone is attending, if it is the right one. If it ends up not being the right one, change schools.
Make mistakes: better to learn how to recover from them at home than without the family safety net. Tell them it’s ok if they don’t know what they want to do: 95% of the kids who say they do, don’t. Or will change their mind. That’s fine. If they want to learn a trade, let them. They will be financially well off and always employed (seriously: I have people from three different blue collar trades coming to my house this week. They will be handsomely paid and I will fawn over them when they fix what I could not. Think about it).
Tell them to go to the dance/the party/the concert/the play/the game. Ask that guy/girl out. If it sucks, it was one night they’ll never remember. If it is awesome, it just might be that one night they will never forget.
Hang out with friends. Take a class. Talk with your spouse. No spouse? Do something you’ve always wanted to do but a significant other might’ve gotten in the way. Do not wait until the kids are gone to start filling those empty spaces. We are so busy every weekend that we rarely miss the kids. I mean, I would kill to hear my daughter sing, but that’ll come (she’ll gig over winter break at Excelsior Brewing Company — watch for my pathetically excited posts). I’ll visit her for parents’ weekend in Nashville in a couple weeks. She’s coming home for Homecoming. My son will return for a visit in October from Seattle, and we’re taking him and his buddy to Vegas in November for the first time.
Sure, I miss them. But as much as I love them, I don’t need them. And they don’t need me the same way anymore. And it’s okay.
So enjoy the frenzy. Take the pictures. Hope that they tell you more than “it was fine” when you ask about their day later — whether face to face or via text (both are ok). You do you. They will do they. And you will all have a great year!