Beginnings and endings are a part of each of our lives, and we often use the milestones created by them to define who we are.
My oldest son Jake is about to begin an ending of sorts called his senior year.
I very clearly remember Jake’s first day of school. We had prepared Jake for all facets of that first day and made several reconnaissance trips to his school, classroom, playground, and bus stop.
The night before we gave him his ceremonial bath so that he would be squeaky clean for his first day of school. When morning arrived we made Jake’s favorite breakfast and packed his lunch in his lunch box, which we then put in his backpack with his school supplies. Jake’s 3 year old brother Tucker was an enthusiastic participant in all of the preparations and proceedings and we all marched down to the bus stop to join the other new kids and more experienced 6 and 7 year olds waiting to get on the bus. Tucker got in line behind Jake and even though we had explained several times that he wouldn’t be getting on the bus with his brother, when the time came and Tucker was left behind his face momentarily reflected utter confusion which was soon displaced by distress. It was actually quite priceless and Tucker made a quick recovery.
And now suddenly or not so suddenly depending on your perspective, we have reached Jake’s last first day of school. It is only the beginning of many lasts in store for Jake and his fellow senior classmates. There will be last games, last concerts, last dances, last lunches, last sleepovers, last gatherings, last classes, and finally last exams as they creep incrementally closer to the ceremony that marks the ending of their high school careers.
With each of these approaching lasts for parents there is a realization that we are almost out of time to get in the lessons/advice/instructions we thought we had all the time in the world to convey. Some of these lessons are basic survival skills such as laundry, cooking, and changing a light bulb, while others are deeply profound such as being kind, patient, and giving with one other.
Truth be told the advice train may have already left the station. I remember my Dad telling me when I was around 11 and I thought that he was the greatest that very soon I would reach an age where I thought he was the stupidest person alive (“no not me Dad”) and each subsequent year he would get a little stupider in my eyes until magically at about 20 years of age I would realize how wrong I had been and he would once again become smart.
Given that my kids are still at an age where they will likely consider me and by extension my advice to be slightly more useful than something that is not very useful, I realize I have to pick my moments carefully. By the way my Dad was pretty close to dead on in his prediction but he neglected to tell me what I would think of him when I became the age he was then. He is pretty o.k., which is high praise in my family, but I now realize we both are pretty much winging it and lost the instruction book a long time ago.