June is a month littered with milestones. It marks the end of the school year for some, graduation for others, and a big month for exchanging vows. In our family, the first week in June included ninth grade graduation from middle school for our son, and moving our daughter out of her dorm room marking the end of her first year of college. Those doors were barely closed behind them before they started to move on to what is next.
That excitement to move forward toward new goals and new experiences, however, comes with its own pressures - fed by us? Fed by society? Fed by their own internal drives? Or a combination of all three? I'm not sure. But I know that from the time that they each were conceived, I was checking the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” bible to see where they were in their growth, and, literally, what I could expect to happen next. And then there was the checklist in the companion “What to Expect” toddler book, consulted frequently to see what new adventures-in-parenting lay ahead of us. And so it began.
And so it continues.
Each of my children is advancing to their sophomore years. But before they even took their freshman finals, they were signing up for next year’s classes and charting their courses to take them from sophomore year to graduation. Before our son’s end-of-season track banquet, he already was setting pole vaulting goals for 2017. Before the boxes were packed in the dorm, my daughter was actively planning for next year’s living arrangements and internships.
There is nothing wrong with looking forward, or setting goals, or dreaming of the possibilities, or planning for your future. This movement forward through this journey on earth is exciting stuff. And I encourage it all.
But in this rush ahead, I also want my children to pause and enjoy the moment. Actually, more than that, I want them to remember not just to pause, but to come to a full stop and take the extra time to turn around. I want them to understand the value and satisfaction that comes from looking back to where they have been, and reflecting, without pressure, on how far they have come.
When they do, I hope that they do not dwell only on the big, flashy moments, but instead focus their attention on the little, almost indiscernible, every day experiences that carried them to where they are today. Goofy laughs with childhood friends. Family walks and family dinners. Books they’ve read whose characters stuck with them long after they closed the cover. Inside jokes shared between brother and sister. Heavy backpacks and monotonous biking commutes to school. Discovering new favorite songs and perfecting dance moves in a mirror. Homemade waffles on Sundays and baking Grandma’s cinnamon rolls on holidays. The memory of every poster, picture, decoration or placement of furniture in their childhood rooms. Looking back on all of those everyday happy memories, and also looking back to the mistakes they made along the way to where they are now … because even in those challenges, important lessons were learned.
So to my children: Please don’t forget to look back and smile. The road behind you brought you to today. And it will lead you to all of the exciting possibilities of tomorrow.