Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moving on up...

Tonight our 8th grader had his official "moving up" ceremony into high school. This event is not foreign to me, since many schools in the US have adopted this ceremonial event as kids move on to the next school. Our sons both went through their lower school graduations after 4th grade in Virginia - my youngest even had a second one in Texas since 5th grade was still a part of elementary school. I find the events unbearably moving - this, coming from one who cries at most dramatic movies and even some commercials that can tug at the heart strings. Tonight was no exception.

The week (well, let's be honest, the year) has been building up to this occasion. I don't think there is a parent alive who doesn't get a little anxious as their child progresses and matures to that inevitable stage of being a true teenager - the rise into high school. You worry about wether they are ready for the course load, if they have the friends and emotional support to navigate through the social aspects that come with that age, and whether you have instilled in them enough common sense that when they are faced with those inevitable decisions (drinking, driving, sex, etc.) that they are ready to make the right decisions. Now, I do believe that these decisions may vary form kid to kid and from family to family, based on the values parents instill in their child. That being said, you hope they make the right decisions anyway, even if, when it comes to YOUR child, those answers may vary greatly from what you may have thought yourself as a teen in your day and age!

The ceremony this evening was charming, and simple. It began with the students entering the auditorium to, what else? Guns & Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine." I am actually a fan of this group and even attended a concert or two of theirs, but never imagined that this song could bring me to tears years later! The song was followed by a series of speeches from both student representatives and staff, discussing the class of 2012's great accomplishments, the bright future ahead of them, and, of course, their advice on how to navigate their way through their high school careers. Awards were given to the top students in each class discipline, the honor choir sung Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," and the students and staff welcomed the graduates to their new status of being the "lowest on the totem pole" all over again. The certificates were passed out by each homeroom teacher and the students had their moment in the spotlight, crossing the stage for their well earned certificates. The whole presentation was standard to what I have experienced in the States, but I still found myself with a lump in my throat throughout the presentation. When the presentation turned to a slide show of pictures throughout the graduates' middle school years at ISL, I was fighting back the tears. J is my oldest, so I experience each of these events with him first. It makes it no less special when B's turn comes around, but there is just something about the first that brings home the fact that it won't be much longer before these guys are leaving the nest for good and starting their lives as independent adults, ready to face the world on their own.

I know we have done our absolute best to instill our faith and values into our sons. Each day I remind myself that there is nothing more important than my job as a mother. I recognize I am not the best and that I often miss the mark on the standards I set for myself. I never feel I spend enough time, enough energy, or enough focus on their day-to-day activities, though I am sure they would say they feel quite the opposite. I am genuinely interested in how they feel, how they interact with their teachers and their friends, and what truly moves them, whether it is something they learned in a class, or something they learned from a friend. It is the entire spectrum, made up of each of these little pieces that will form the adults they will soon become, and I want nothing more than to know that I was a part of that experience for them. I am sure most adults likely underestimate the influence they have on their children. I can speak from my own experience that I am largely an image of those influences that I received from my parents, even if some happen to be in direct contrast of what their own beliefs happened to be. It is through my observations and experiences that I had with them that helped me to develop my view of the world, so I can only assume it is the same for our children.

What do I want for my children as they embark on these new journeys? I want them to know that they will always be our brightest lights, our shining stars, and our greatest hope. They are our future and they are and will always be one aspect of how we define our personal success in the world. They will always be the loves our our lives and we want nothing but the best for them. We pray that they will find what motivates them and brings them joy, and for them to love the work and careers they eventually embark upon. I believe that life is the journey, not the destination. If we  remain focused on the path, but take time to see the beauty around us - the gifts God has bestowed upon us - then it can only be assumed that the destination will reflect the decisions and the choices we have made along the way. If all we see are the cautions and barriers in our path, we will never see the forks or opportunities that life reveals to us each and every day. Today, it was just a simple ceremony in an auditorium, in a small country of Europe. But some day tomorrow, those opportunities, those decisions our young generation has in front of them will later define the adults they will become and the kind of world we live in. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

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