When my youngest son graduated from nursery school they wanted to keep him back a year. In retrospect I should have done so because he was very tiny and immature for his age. Being the proud parents of a smart child headed for elementary school we decided to ignore this advice and send him off to the next level.
Elementary school was a struggle but he managed to get through it and again we were proud parents going through graduation ceremonies and looking forward to middle school growth. Events caught up with us and at about eighth grade I took my son out of school for a year of home schooling … a great move! He was back in school for ninth grade and another graduation ceremony where from the person sitting next to me I learned about alternative education opportunities.
High school had its own challenges but because of our chance meeting at graduation we got lucky and sent our burgeoning computer geek to a vocational high school that developed his skills. Today our son amazes us with his network of friends and ability to run a computer consulting company.
I remember his graduation from high school and how teary I felt knowing that the last of my children would be leaving home. I was going to experience the “empty nest syndrome” for the first time. And… it actually happened. It was a lonesome time punctuated by chaotic vacations from college.
Each time one of my five children entered eleventh grade, I went into mourning in anticipation of their leaving home. Being a mother was my all-encompassing identity. Though I was a successful businesswoman I never took my primary sense of self from work. With motherhood I understood who I was and what my job was. By hook or crook I was going to raise healthy, contributing children and beware to anyone or anything that got in the way!
Now, my second granddaughter is graduating from university and I am evaluating the life force that propelled my fine grandchildren into the world. Their graduations mark time and though I am very proud of my grandchildren, I feel a sense of loss and longing for the days when I could take them to puppet shows, feed them forbidden food and watch their school plays.
What is my role now that my children and their children are in the driver’s seat? I watch, observe, try not to interfere, and look for the beauty in how they run their lives. My job is done, or is it?
As I take a back seat to child-rearing I realize that we live long lives and have many opportunities to reinvent ourselves. Part of the job of an older person is to pass on wisdom, to inspire, to teach. This new role is more subtle and has to be tailored to each child, grandchild and yes, the community in general. I have had many experiences and learned a great deal throughout my life and am finding new ways to share my knowledge. I have become a mentor to young women entrepreneurs, serve on community boards and even helped a young street kid find his life’s vocation.
What do I most want to teach? When I am asked why I am successful, I always answer in the same way. It is because of two qualities, persistence and passion. Those are two elements that are elusive in our schools’ curriculum. Living with passion and being persistent in effort are the qualities I want most to inspire youth to embrace. They are the sparks I look for in the eyes of each graduate. I know my grandchildren are good people and with passion and persistence they will accomplish their life’s dreams.