The school year is upon us and, for my family and many others I assume, the last couple of weeks have been a flurry of activity and re-adjusting to the school-year schedule. As challenging and exhausting as it may be to get my kids back into the groove, there is a definite exhalation and sense of relief when that groove starts to set in.
Although every year the first weeks of school are an adjustment period, this year has been more so. My middle child started high school.
We’ve been through this before with our eldest, which means this time I have the benefit of the knowledge gleaned the first time around. It’s one thing to reflect back on my own high school years; it’s quite another to reflect back on the high school years of my first-born son and think about the various things I would have done differently while helping him navigate that experience.
Alas, as is the case with first-born children everywhere, I am unable to turn back time and give him the benefit of that knowledge. I can only hope he views my admitted over-protection and hint of neurosis with a little, or perhaps a lot of, indulgence.
I can only hope.
Hope — that emotion has been described as one of the most powerful we possess. Armed with what I will optimistically label as wisdom earned through experience, I have a list of hopes for my second son as he begins his high school adventure — for him and all teens.
Of course, I hope you learn — not just about reading and writing, trigonometry and history, science and government, but about art, music and debate and the joy and satisfaction of creating something with your mind and your own two hands.
More than that, however, I hope you learn about true friendship, the kind that survives squabbles and significant others and assorted high school drama and in your later years brings a smile to your face, fond memories and people you love in spite of distances and differences.
I hope you discover your passions and those things that excite you and make you feel alive. Whether those things become a part of your everyday life, a career or just a hobby, I hope you never stop nurturing them or turning to them for solace or inspiration.
I hope you don’t automatically discard subjects or things you’ve never tried; it’s surprising how often those things can open up brand new doors of possibility. Speaking of surprise, I hope you don’t lose the ability to surprise yourself. It’s an underrated experience.
I hope you have great teachers, the kind that inspire you and challenge you and perhaps even spur you to explore those subjects and paths you’ve never considered before. I hope you also have some not-so-great teachers because from these people you can learn how to navigate a world in which you will undoubtedly encounter many not-so-great associates, coworkers and people in general. You will have to deal with them anyway.
I hope you have classes with other students who challenge you and encourage you and allow you to experience collaboration and cooperation. Such experiences teach us that teamwork can at times allow us to be so much more than the sum of our individual parts.
I hope you also have classes with people you just don’t “click” with. These people can teach you how to be tolerant and respectful in spite of your differences. The world is in dire need of young people (and all people really) who can agree to disagree without casting aspersions on one another’s values and basic human decency.
I hope you have your first experience with a relationship and young love and that, whoever that person may be, you treat one another with respect. I hope you feel butterflies and giddiness and that sense of anticipation waiting for that special person to call or text or IM or whatever way technology deems you may communicate over the next four years.
I hope you know that what happens in the movies isn’t necessarily a reality. The guy doesn’t always get the girl, nor should he, and dogged persistence of a person is actually stalker behavior and not at all romantic. I hope you know that sometimes people just aren’t “that into you.” That’s OK, you’re not that into some people either.
As difficult as it may be, I hope you feel the sting of unrequited feelings and the inevitable break-ups. I believe that only after having your heart a little broken, and being responsible for a little breaking of someone else’s, can you really love another person with the level of empathy, understanding and respect required for a long-lasting relationship.
I hope you hold true to the values I’ve tried to instill in you, those of honesty and compassion and kindness. I hope you make putting your best foot forward a lifelong habit. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
I hope you stay true to yourself, even when it’s hard. There is nothing like high school peer pressure to make you doubt your values and question your self-worth. Although a few decades have passed since I was there myself, I can very well remember those feelings of not being smart enough, funny enough, talented enough, athletic enough, attractive enough or popular enough.
I hope you remember that those feelings of inadequacy are being felt by others too. Be kind to others, be accepting of differences, and, while you’re at it, don’t forget to also be kind to yourself.
I hope you know it’s important to stand up for yourself, and for others, but I hope you also know that violence and force very rarely solve anything.
I hope you learn that things don’t always go your way; sometimes it may actually seem as though things never go your way. I hope you summon the fortitude to face the hard days and keep going.
I hope you remember that you really don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives. Everyone has their own struggles and issues and sometimes what they say or do really has very little to do with you.
I hope you know that when I choose to step back and let you hash things out with friends or solve your own issues with teachers, it’s because that’s a huge part of what you need to learn at this time in your life. Don’t ever doubt that I’ll be right there when you really need me.
Admitting you need help can take a great deal of courage. I hope you have the strength to turn to me, or others, and ask for help when you need it.
I hope you dance at school dances, yell with the crowd at sporting events and have enough school pride to know the school song, even if you don’t choose to sing at the top of your lungs.
I hope those people who will tell you your high school years are the best ones of your life are mistaken. How sad it must be to spend a lifetime looking back at a few brief years.
I also hope you don’t spend those few brief years viewing them as a burden and always looking to the future.
My hope for you is that the best year of your life is always the present one. Even when things aren’t going well, it’s important to live in the here and now, without always looking to the past or the future.
I hope that you never lose hope.
Lastly, I hope you’re not too upset with me for writing about you, yet again.