A Senior Moment For The Family

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - August 17, 2011
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About the time I first began writing a column for MidWeek, my son was learning how to ride a bike. We had taken him to Old Stadium Park, with its big shady trees and pretty grass and, most important for the task at hand, sidewalks that loop around the playground perimeter and never seem to end. He was eager to learn, but a little scared and a little shaky.

And while he trusted us to be there to give him a boost and a steadying hand, he also wanted something else. He wanted to pedal around on those endless sidewalks without us. He needed that dizzying, exhilarating feeling of big-boy independence. He wanted to fly, knowing we were there to catch him if he fell. And we wanted to let him, knowing he wouldn’t go too far.

This week he steps onto his high school campus as a senior.

Wow. A senior.

Why does that sound so alien when we’ve had 17 years to prepare for it? You’d think we’d all be ready for it, and I guess we are. I guess. It is going to be a busy year. Thankfully, we won’t have much time to think and brood and start getting all sentimental and teary about it. Wouldn’t want to spoil the excitement by worrying about what’s to come. It’s always so much better to anticipate with pleasure and to go into the unknown with optimism.

Still, time flies. OK, yes, I’m rolling my eyes because that’s a cliché, but it’s true. It’s as good a way as any to describe how ephemeral our lives are. Lately I see the passage of time keenly, especially when I look at my son, who is almost all grown up. High school is like the final sanctuary of childhood for him (and for me). He still faces so many “firsts” in his life. I’m excited for him and maybe a little envious. I remember what life was like when it was still new and limitless. Sometimes I miss it, that heady anticipation, but then I tell myself there’s always tomorrow. There’s always another first.

I see that truth in my parents, who’ve experienced most of their own “firsts” but who still look forward to more. They enjoy their time together as if it were the most precious gift on earth. There is still joy in discovery and companionship and adventures. They were planning a trip to China, having already visited Israel, New Zealand and Thailand. And they’re getting ready to go to Vegas again. While I do not understand their love for that particular bi-annual destination, I remain charmed by their enthusiasm. I’m glad that they continue to look forward, instead of peering behind. That works. It’s a good lesson in how to live a positive and happy life.

I keep that in mind, as our son gets ready once again to fly out on his own. He’s not learning to ride a bike this time; he’s preparing to navigate his entire life. And just as when he was 4 years old, he is eager, a little shaky and a little scared. He still trusts us, his parents, to give him a boost and a steadying hand when he needs us. In that sense, not much has changed.

And yet so much has.

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