Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bon Voyage Every Day

When I leave for work in the morning, I run into the local school traffic--parents dropping off their kids at the local schools near our house. If I am early enough, I also see some parents dropping off their high schoolers at the nearby bus stop. The traffic is slow, stop and go, and there's plenty of time to gaze into other cars and do some people-watching.

Yesterday morning I caught sight of a woman in a car who was moving her mouth as though it was full of old, dry toast that she was determined to chew up then spit it out. At first I thought she must have Bluetooth in her car and whoever was on the other end of the line was getting an earful, a royal chewing out. She stared straight ahead and worked that mouth vigorously without stopping. I watched her and couldn't help but almost start to laugh at the scene. But then, as she pulled the car forward, I saw her high school-aged son in the passenger's seat. It was clear: he was the one she was directing all that sputum towards. My amusement turned to sorrow. You could see the defeated look in his eyes as he turned his head and gazed out the window.

The traffic moved ahead and in another car I saw another parent, obviously not too happy with her middle-schooler who sat slumped in her seat. There was a Lecture in progress in that car for sure. You could just see the yearning of the girl, waiting to get out, away from that voice, away from the negativity. In another car, a father looked expressionless and silent as he drove his daughter to school.

Those scenes yesterday morning made me think about those days when I was in high school and felt like no one understood me, or even cared about me. It was rare, but there were days when my mom was mad at me as I left for school, and it set the tone for the whole day. I went to school and found no love there, only rules I had to follow, and more adults I had to placate. It was miserable.

Every year we go to our son's Back to School night and we get a taste of what he faces on a daily basis. We follow his schedule of classes, (for short, ten minute classes instead of the hour long ones he goes to) going from one room to another and then to another, from one teacher to another, to another, pushed along by an obscenely loud and harsh bell. His high school is huge, his classes are huge, every teacher assigns work, and there is very little time for individual attention. There are different rules in every room. This teacher wants them to use a blue pen. This one demands they write out the date and not use numbers. One teacher wants a certain kind of binder. The math teacher demands graph paper. The English teacher wants them to put their names on the left hand side of the paper only. Every day he leaves home where he has to follow our rules and then has to deal with six authority figures at school AND meet all the expectations all of us have for him.

It seems to me, as parents, we have a golden opportunity every morning, and we often blow it, not understanding the power that we have in those few minutes before our children set out on their days. So often we use any time we have with them to inform, direct, instruct, and to make very clear the things we are not happy about, and make very clear how they can make the changes we see as necessary.

So this morning when a certain young man leaves for school, I intend tell him that I love him, that I am proud of him, and if he needs me for anything, I am just a phone call away. I know he'll roll his eyes, shirk away from my hug, and go "OK, Mom, OK."

He'll leave, walking with his heavy backpack on those shoulders, with that familiar gait I can spot for a mile. More than anything else, I want him to know that as he navigates these turbulent waters of his high school years, if he drops an oar now and then that it's OK. I want him to remember he's got people who will help him find it, help him steady himself, and then send him out on his journey again with love, encouragement and best wishes.


Miriam in KS said...

Beautiful post, BB. I spent time this summer thinking about opportunities missed that will never come again because my children have moved beyond those years of middle school and high school. The thought made me more than a little sad.

And then The Boy would come in and need me for something.

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for your comment. I am realizing these days are coming to an end and I don't like it one little bit!!

Glad to know I will still be needed (at least a little) even after they fly the coop.