Back to School Night? Let's talk about your child's wedding
At Back to School Night, I'm going to ask parents to use a different lens to view their children's education. Instead of looking ahead to college or a job, I'll ask them to look back from their child's wedding. What qualities should their children express then? How do we shape those now?
Rose Valley, Penn.
Just outside my principal’s window, the faces of the future are at play. There is fresh sand in the sandbox, and new sandbox players wriggle in their bright sneakers. I cherish all the hopeful possibilities of their giggles, and the learning from their squabbles. The life of the sandbox seems halcyon and the future far off. But it’s the far-off that can best help parents manage and evaluate the earliest years of their children’s education.Skip to next paragraph
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I don’t mean looking ahead to the usual goals of college or job, a view that causes parents to begin marching their young ones toward the perfect resumé before they can even walk. Instead, I suggest looking back, and from a different vantage-point – your child’s wedding, or even their first try at parenthood. Such a lens brings values and behavior sharply into focus. And it takes us right back to the pails and trucks at work outside my window.
At Back to School Night this year, I’ll ask the parents of these sandbox players to adopt this special lens to examine the young school year. From my pulpit, I’ll start: “Dearly beloved. Imagine that we are gathered at a celebration of love, joy, and families uniting with their two young people who have decided to get hitched.” I’ll go on: “Imagine yourself standing at your child’s wedding. The occasion is the grand commitment of one person to another: partnering, marrying.”
Now we are looking out from the future.
Here is a benchmark beyond the customary entry to middle school, high school, or college; beyond career explorations. Your child is finding a soul mate. Is your sandbox now in fresh, sharp focus?
“Soul Mate 101” is not in the core curriculum of any states, and certainly not a common Back to School Night topic. Yet there are very concrete hopes and achievements embedded in life events such as marriage and parenthood. How shall we meet the needs of these children as we look back from their future; from our future? What would you like to be able to say about your child’s character, ability to lovingly bond with a partner, or their competence and joy as a young parent presenting you with, say, a grandchild? What kind of parent will you have raised when a new generation arrives in your family?
Wasn’t it just this morning that your biggest worry was, “Does my little Imogene have a best friend in kindergarten?” But parenting quickly advances to careerism: “How will Max fare in the transition to middle school? Egad: math placement tests! Ability grouping! Then SATs, recommendations, and applications to college. Resumé building! Graduation! Job interviews!” Relax.