One week since my child began high school. I’ve adopted something of an air accomplishment, my freshman having gotten to school five days and home four to date. I realized this is not an accomplishment, and even less so my accomplishment, but hey! He made it, and so have I–our butts are draggin’ to be sure, but it’s Friday. One week of high school under his belt, one more week of Fiscal Year 2019 under mine; one week of morning routines upended topsy-turvy; one week spent ratcheting back my alarm earlier each day to get him (us) to the city transit bus stop by 6:53 in the AM.
I’m super time anxious, as most of you know. I’m that nettlesome “I’m late if I’m ten minutes early” person. My son does not share this same anxiety, afforded is he the special egocentrism through which teenagers float. He does exhibit his own variation of time-related angst however. His discomfort peeks out from the clouds when I frantically announce deadlines such as, YOU HAVE TO BE AT THE BUS STOP IN FOUR MINUTES AND YOU DON’T HAVE SHOES ON YET, or organization-related elements like, YOU HAVE GOT TO PACK THAT SHIT UP THE NIGHT BEFORE, SON! (and yeah, those are direct quotes). My heart rate has hovered around 100 for much too much time this week. It is no inverse relationship between my heart rate and my having to be or get someone somewhere on time, get someone somewhere early.
My son remarked that my morning stress levels are probably related to his new school routines. He noticed (even he couldn’t not notice), and I felt terrible. I wrote him this letter yesterday to explain, to try to anyway–
My Baby Who Is Not My Baby Anymore,
I am excited for you and proud of you for having stepped up and taken charge of a whole new high school world. It’s one thing to have prepared for it–applying, touring, testing, purchasing supplies, even taking the bus for the practice run, but it’s another to be doing it in real life.
Any stress or weird behavior from me is MY responsibility; it’s all on me. Of course I worry about you, and want things to go well for you. I want you not to struggle, so I want things to go smoothly. But my anxiety and my stress aren’t because of you being in high school. I’m just wired differently than a lot of people. Trying to work out timing of anything causes me to overthink and become unduly nervous. When I get nervous and feel frustrated, I tend to swear or have those little fits. I need to work on that, but it is important to me that you know it’s not because of you.
Your job is to focus on your studies, Kid. You’re going to work more and harder than ever before. Take it all in. Try to see how you fit in to the world around you. Look around and make connections between the world and your classroom learning. Never settle. Never. Ever. Always shoot for the “A.” You will settle for a “B” from time to time, but I want you to think in terms of A, advanced. IB (International Baccalaureate) will help you learn for life. Great things don’t happen when your highest aim is to be proficient. Every day of high school prepares you for what is to come in college and in life. Be great, not just good enough.
Hard work and thoughtful attention to your studies and the people around you will make you a good student, and more importantly, a good person, a good friend. No matter what you do, never settle for less than your best. Even when it’s hard or it’s a subject you dislike, do your best.
Your grandparents always told me that if I gave anything my best effort, did all that I could, that’s all they’d ever ask of me. And now I am telling you that same thing. It’s good advice, son.
Congratulations on making it through week one of high school. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to accomplish.
Despite having places to be each night after work and school this week, I made a point to attend yoga last night. I’m pleased to report that for the first time since re-re-starting, I didn’t wake up achy and stiff today. Progress, that’s what we call that. Before class, I attended the funereal visitation of a man whose son played baseball with mine three and four seasons ago. I didn’t know him well, but his wife and I remained Facebook friends and continue to share inappropriate, sassy and snarky memes and baseball mom messages from time to time. He lost his life at age 35, and all I can think about is how much he will miss. Such an early passing is tragic, every passing is painful, but to be gone from your children so early is unthinkable. My heart aches for his wife and three children.
My son read and saved my letter. He may have even hugged me (but don’t tell anyone, OK?), and relief washed over me like a cleansing rain. During last night’s final pose, shavasana (savasana?), lying on my back in a tightly cramped yoga studio, I shed tears. I couldn’t help myself. Though my body was present, my mind raced, reflecting on loss, love, connections, missed connections, growth, and how there is never enough time. The tears refused to stop until I sat upright, but my heart knew peace. I know that reads totally cheeseball, but my heart felt good. I bowed and uttered namaste for the first time with not even a hint of fraud, sass, or irony.
Keep trying. Do your best. Admit when you’re wrong. Apologize when a situation demands it. Be good. Do good. All of this.