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Scheduling Conflict

I knew he was going off to high school, but seeing his schedule makes my son's transition more real.

Dear Henry,

Don't read this today.  In fact, don't read this until you are no longer a freshman.  You can even wait longer.  There's no rush.

I am writing this today because you will enter South Lakes High School in one week, and I cannot believe how quickly we got to this point.  Do you remember it all?  Do you know how proud I am of you?

Just like you, I was my parents' first child and I remember being your age and feeling like the first-born kid is a little like the first pancake in a batch.  Nobody's sure how the process will go.  The edges are a little rough.  Subsequent ones are formed by more confident hands.

You were my first pancake, and I marvel at how well you turned out and how many mistakes I made along the way.  It took me a long time to figure out who you were and I was always at least one step behind you. 

You were never on a schedule of my making.  I would make plans for us and you would have already moved on to a new phase.  Sometimes I felt like I was living on your schedule and sometimes I felt there was nothing managing our time at all.

You learned to sleep when you were tired and wake when you had rested enough.  You ate when you were hungry and I just learned to anticipate those times.

You walked after all those mommy guides told me you would but well before there was any place where you needed to arrive on your feet.  And the walking became running in the blink of an eye.

You made your own way through the steps.  Infant, baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary school student, middle schooler, and now a high-school kid who not only marched to the beat of your own drummer but also ignored the rhythm section entirely for long stretches of time.

So, now you have a schedule that includes things like geometry and world history.  The idea of your being at school and having your day measured out in segments in not new to either of us, but I am having a rough time with the notion that you are entering those last four years where you will begin and end your day in a home where we live together.

I did not pay attention to the schedule that told me that this stage was coming next.  I forgot that I had passed the same markers in my own young life.

It was different then when I was the one matriculating.  I did not plan for a day when I would be the one left behind.  When I was young like you, I was in a hurry to get to the next part.  I did not plan for this time when I would wish for each day to stretch a little longer to give me more time to catch up with the schedule.

So, I am looking at your schedule.  They will expect you to be in these places at these times.  Your calendar will soon be populated with marked-off days and scooped-out hours.

You will be asked to adhere to the schedule and I will sometimes be adamant in my demands that you meet some small deadline which looms before you.

Please help me remember that the schedule is just one way to pass these precious days.  The will stack up so quickly, these days that are passing us by.

We are on schedule, my son.  We are making great time.  We are moving so quickly.

Help me remember to grab each second with both hands, releasing it only when the schedule demands.  I won't let go a moment too soon.

Carolyn Lawson Low August 29, 2011 at 10:29 PM
Justine.... absolutely beautiful
Friends of the Reston Regional Library August 29, 2011 at 11:53 PM
Justine -- with a senior girl and a freshman boy, I can echo your sentiments and deep sighs. There are days I look at her and think "not yet" and days I think "not soon enough." Strangely enough, she feels the same way. Part of God's plan for getting us to let them go! Encourage Henry to go to the block party on Friday. It will be fun and the food will be free and it will help him acclimate. Hope to see you there! I'll be at the Friends of the Library table (du-uh, right?)
Maria Koklanaris Bonaquist August 30, 2011 at 01:51 AM
*Sniff*! Beautiful! I hope he has a great year!
Claire Alfeo August 30, 2011 at 01:56 AM
Great article Justine! My 2 girl,2 boy quadruplets will enter Langston Hughes next year...and I'm already feeling like you! My eyes watered reading your words...I keep thinking too soon...too soon....
Kathleen Canedo August 30, 2011 at 03:27 PM
So perfectly written -- great column. Why can't they stay young for much, much longer?

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