The light in the late August sky has a different caste. The temperatures while warm during the day, cool at night and humidity is brushed away with sweeping winds from the northwest. Trees laboring all summer to provide a soothing green canopy decide to bid farewell with a last hurrah of color. Field plants and designated noxious weeds drop their allergy making gifts. It is a time of transition. There is a mood shift; things have run their cycle and there is anticipation of change.
Kids are getting a little bored and restless. Summer soccer and baseball have been fun, but it is over now and what is there to fill the days? How many afternoons of “Reality” shows can be absorbed before it numbs everything? There are still dishes to do, lawns to cut and part time jobs, but the effort to get the cash in hand becomes tedious also. The preschool shopping trips out of town are really an attempt to ease some of the malaise by buying in Fargo, Grand Forks, Duluth or the Mega Mall what is readily available after a ten minute drive to town.
Developmental psychologists talk about times of transition in a person’s life. Transitions happen rapidly in a young person’s life, while they stretch out over a period of years for the older person. Each of these adjustments is inevitable. Life is never the same.
The kindergarten parent watches little Susie or Johnny get on the bus in the morning. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who feels the worst. The kids are most often excited. Parents wave as the bus heads down a dusty road, turn their backs and choke back tears as they walk back to the house. This child is no longer theirs.
For high schoolers it is time for the big leagues. The time of movement from the lower grades to high school is a welcomed one. Most kids are ready to try something different. Frequently it is a move to a more permanent relationship with the rest of their life. What they do or fail to do has consequences far into the future. That grade generated in freshman Algebra is still there twenty-five years later on the high school transcript. If they had a hard time making it to every class every day, that record is there also.
Those launching their son or daughter toward college experience a whole different thing. The process of transition is more continuous. While getting used to the halls and lockers and finding classrooms was an issue for the high school freshman, now it is independent life decisions with the attendant consequences, both rewarding and scary, that face the fresh high school grad. There is a sense of not belonging anywhere. While you can go home, you can’t go home.
For parents, preparing kids for the transitions in their lives is pretty straightforward. Most developmental life changes can be managed by a little planning and preparation. Talking about the changes in their lives diffuses a lot of anxiety right up front. Touring the new environment and talking with the people they will be dealing with every day as they start a new stage of life also takes some of the fear out of the change.
And empty nesters: as the last one is launched, don’t get caught without a “Plan B.” There will be a vacuum at times, but again, anticipating the change, planning trips, seeing old friends, becoming involved in community or personal projects you have always wanted to do, fills gaps and makes for self-renewal.
You can’t really go back in life. It’s never the same. But the richness and opportunities available at any stage of life are there and ready to be tapped.