As of today, I have two kids in high school.
Is that even possible? Aren’t I still in college? Or at least only a few years out? That’s the way I feel, but then I look in the mirror and see what I see. Skin not so taut; Grey hair at the roots. Dark shadows under my eyes. No, I’m not into any skincare regimens that require needles or surgery because I am a big wimp who is afraid of altering the body God gave me.
TIme flies. It’s a trite expression but it cannot be denied. So I have to face up to it. Be the parent. Be the parent of two teenaged girls. Oh Lord. Where’s that bottle of gin? I mean running shoes, kids. Where is that bottle of running shoes? Because the best way to calm my nerves is by channeling that nervous energy not numbing it. Yeah. That’s right.
The truth is that I wish I were the one going back to school this week. I would make the most out of it, unlike a huge percentage of those teenage girls who spend more time choosing their outfit and fixing their hair and makeup than they do on their homework. At least that’s what I did in high school. When I was my children’s age, I saw school as a playground; I did most of my school work, I pushed myself in the more difficult classes, but I went to school to see my friends . . . and to see the boys, including the cute ones who didn’t even know my name.
I’d like to think that my kids are smarter than me, not in an academic way per se, although they may be, but in a practical way and in a personal way as well. Maybe they have a hint of what a privilege it is to get an education. Maybe they are wise enough to see that the harder they work, the luckier they get, that their classes are places where they can figure out who they are and what excites them intellectually and creatively. And that it matters in life to know what excites you intellectually and creatively. Yet, maybe they don’t get it. I assume that it’s rare to be a teenager and have that kind of perspective.
If I were to go back to school right now, I would be that kid who raises her hand all the time and annoys the bleep out of the other kids. I would do all my homework assignments and do some side reading to complement the materials I was required to read. I would be a teacher’s dream, even though I wouldn’t care about that. I wouldn’t care about my grades either. Of course, I’ve already gotten into and graduated from college so I don’t have that to worry about. If I were to go back to school right now, I would care about the learning. The new information. The artistic and musical endeavors. The different approaches to life. The tools that can help me better manage my own life.
But you can’t explain that to your kids. Well I can’t, especially since I am not an ideal example of a high school student who took advantage of the opportunities set before me. I have kids who feel connected to the classwork, who take school more seriously than I did, but they still don’t get the depth of what is happening while they are in school. They don’t get that they are building the foundation for who they are going to be as they grow, for what they are going to do in their futures, both privately and publicly.
So what’s a parent to do?
We all deal in different ways but this is what I’m thinking.
I’m making plans for my own edification. I can’t make my kids or any others see the stars that are put in their reach, but I can pull out my telescope and look myself. Learn something new. That’s where I am right now. We’ll see how it turns out.
There are a couple of items on my bucket list that I want to cross off this year. Ones that I believe that I can do while parenting and writing books and living my life.
Confession: I’m afraid to tell you because you may judge me later if I don’t actually get to them. I’m not supposed to care. I even said that if I were to go back to school, I wouldn’t care what others thought of what I was doing. I’d be doing it for me. And I would.
So here you go: The first thing I want to do is learn how to bake my own bread.And I want to learn to do it well. No tasteless grocery store bread from me. French bread, sandwich bread, pita bread, tortillas. I can’t explain it except to say that it is something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it goes back to my desire to simplify things. A little flour, a little water, no bread machine. My pioneer woman is jones-ing to knead some dough and serve up piping hot nourishment to my family. And number two: I want to learn to speak French. Both of my kids are advanced students of the language and every Fall, we host Parisian students in our home for three weeks. The French students want to use their English skills while here but wouldn’t it be nice if I could speak a few words of French to them without stumbling over every syllable. I realize that if I put down the Rosetta Stone money today, I still won’t be able to communicate in French with the students arriving in six weeks, but I might be able to pick up a little bit more when my kids speak French with them. And next year, well, I’ll be able to converse. I hope. That’s my current expectation.
How about you? Do you think about your own education when your kids go off to school? When you think about what you want to know that you don’t already know, do you think about things like baking bread or learning French or things like learning to fix your car engine or how to make money hand over fist?
I’m a student, perpetually. I think we all are, even those who say that they hated school. Being a student is not about getting the right answers on the test; it’s about digging deep and getting a better understanding of the things that impact our lives. There are times when we consciously go out and learn and times when it just happens. But school or no school, I believe that every day we are a student of something, and if we are not, we aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities that life puts before us.
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