When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bittersweet back-to-school

I laughed out loud when I saw this season's back-to-school commercial for Zellers on television a few weeks ago. It shows a loving mom, proudly sending her young son off on the school bus sporting brand-new clothes and a sparkling clean backpack full of all the supplies he'll need to do his best in school. When the bus drops the boy back off at home at the end of the day, he is dishevelled, muddy, and missing half of his stuff (including one leg of his pants!). He looks happy, but his shocked mom realizes she's got some more work ahead of her. I think this ad probably rings true for many moms of boys; I know I've often said that my two would lose their heads if they weren't attached to their bodies. (I like to think that they're too busy thinking about more meaningful things than where their socks, books, or other items have disappeared to!)

I will be sending my boys back to school with mixed feelings this year. As I watch them being jostled along into their new classrooms, surrounded by their buddies, I will be thrilled for the shiny promise that a new year brings them: chances to discover exciting ideas and develop new skills, to grow in leaps and bounds as their understanding of the world expands, to nurture friendships, and to build confidence in themselves. But my baby, Will, is now entering his first year of full-time schooling, and I feel somehow sad and apprehensive as well. The main focus of my life for the past nine years has been being a mom, being there for my little boys to guide and to teach them, to help them, to spend time with them, and most of all, to love them like no one else can. Of course, this relationship does not end now, but we have reached a stage where both of my boys will spend half of their weekday waking hours out in the big wide world without me, and sometimes that world is not a kind place. It's a huge act of trust to let go of your children's hands knowing that in life, people around them will not always play fairly, and they are bound to lose some things along the way.

I realize that trying to protect our kids from difficult experiences is not reasonable or desirable. Obstacles, heartache, and loss are all necessary parts of human life; we become stronger, better people through dealing with adversity. I will send my boys off to school well-equipped with supplies like the boy in the television ad, but more importantly, I hope that in being home with them all these years, I have helped develop in them the self-esteem, thinking skills, and good-heartedness to triumph in the face of life's challenges when they arise. If they come home from school missing their pride, or their trust in someone, or other things more significant than a pant leg, I hope that they will be able to find strength within to keep believing in and staying true to themselves. I will be there for them in these rough times and in happy ones; I realize I still have work ahead of me too. I have faith, though, that at the end of the day, my boys will come out of it all smiling, just like the boy in the commercial. As their proud mom, so will I.

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