Every morning, I realize that the days are inching closer to a defining moment.. My youngest child graduates from high school this year. A mix of joyful anticipation, grief, and gratefulness swirl through my being . I am about to have a window seat to a rite of passage that was 18 years in the making. But the credit for this accomplishment extends far beyond our family.
My husband and I certainly try to cultivate a passion for learning in our home. That happens through a variety of methods and opportunities. While my son does well academically, we also remind him that success in school is not limited to one definition. We are excited to celebrate this milestone with him. But I have come to see a bigger picture emerge in this narrative. A diverse community of people shaped my child along the way. And I am so grateful.
They shape our children in multiple ways . We are thankful for those who encouraged him to be the best version of himself. It’s not easy when there are so many tasks and so many students who take attention. I will never forget the time my husband and I attended high school conferences and the focus was not academics. Two teachers identified what they valued in his character and what he contributed to the class. Their ability to see his whole being impacted how he engaged in the learning environment.
Friends and neighbors
Our “people” are more like extended family. We turn to them at a moment’s notice when child care is needed. Their homes provided not just a refuge but a safe place to learn to interact with others. Sometimes that meant the rules changed or different family dynamics were at play. But they loved him and welcomed him as he processed those differences. They showed grace when arguments ensued between our kids, teaching him about navigating uncomfortable places. Those experiences prepared him to engage with new environments, find his voice and identity, and learn about the breadth of humankind.
Much of the school experience involves social connections. But navigating the complexities of relationships in a school environment is challenging. I am thankful for those who gave him a smile in the hallway while not realizing he was experiencing a hard day. The students who stood up for him when necessary or showed kindness in some way, made impacts that can never be measured. Yes, school is about academics but it is also about feeling valued within it.
He is always learning about community and finding his identity in one, He knows that asking questions is ok and realizes they don’t all have easy answers . In addition, they encourage him to walk into uncomfortable spaces in order to learn more about our world and ourselves. And to always consider the implications: for self and neighbor. Most importantly, he receives validation and unconditional love as he wrestles with what he believes.
On that day, my family will proudly watch my son receive the public affirmation that he completed 13 years of education. But, truthfully, our presence will actually represent a group of people that have influenced him behind the scenes. Together, we have helped him forge his path to this moment. Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” I am thankful for all who have walked with him, regardless of the distance, during this part of his journey.