My kids schools have started sending me mail. The contents vary in detail, but the general gist is “School is coming, this is what you need to do to prepare.” I collected the letters and pinned them to my bulletin board because I wasn’t ready to think about it yet. Then I looked at my calendar and realized that August arrives half way through this week. School starts in three weeks, ready or not. So this morning I began thinking about the school year to come and talking to my kids about what we need to do in the next three weeks to transition smoothly.
Kiki is going to be a senior this year. I find it fascinating that the minute people hear this, they begin to ask all sorts of questions about career plans and then to spout advice. The only other time in my life that I’ve heard so much unsolicited life advice was when I was pregnant. The trouble is that people keep asking questions for which we do not yet have answers. This is not because we haven’t considered the issues, but because it is not yet time to have answers to those questions. I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for college because I don’t know yet which school or what scholarships. Kiki is still considering schools and weighing options. She is still in the open possibilities stage of this process, the time of imagining her life in a hundred different ways. Yet all the questions are focused on narrowing down options and picking a path. As if picking a single path now determines her entire future. As if adults never change direction or readjust their lives.
Often I’m not actually a participant in these conversations about Kiki’s future, I just get to listen to them. Kiki does not seem to mind having them most of the time. Perhaps they are helping her see her choices. The truth is that I am not particularly stressed about college admissions for her. I know her and how competent she is. She will find a way through to good life solutions. Her solutions will be a better fit for her than any solutions that I can give her. It just falls to me to decide the quantity of financial support we can provide as she furthers her education. Those conversations and stresses will hit late winter. I’ll be stressed about it when the time is right, not now.
It is also possible that I’m in denial about how stressful this “applying for college” process will be. In which case I will snuggle my comfy denial close and keep it for awhile. My brain is already quite occupied with unpacking the school stresses that I put away last spring and now must pull out to examine. In the first few weeks of school I need to conference with Link’s teachers to make sure that his IEP reflects the diagnosis we made at the very end of last school year. We need to make sure that Link has the resources he needs so that he can take control of his life. Patch’s teacher sent a letter emphasizing the importance of multiplication tables. Those were the bane of his existence last fall and threw him into a pit of self doubt. I am hopeful that this new year will not trigger a similar emotional crisis, but I need to watch carefully. Gleek is headed into sixth grade. In Utah that is still elementary school, but the hormonal and emotional shifts which girls go through at this age can cause them to make really poor decisions. I’m not so much worried about Gleek choosing awry, but I really hope she doesn’t suffer because someone else decides to alleviate her own self doubt by being mean.
These are the thoughts that I shoved into the back of my brain last May and have not touched since. School is coming. It will bring me six hours of quiet house each week day. I’ll be able to re-separate my work time from my parenting time. That will be a blessed relief. School will also bring all of that other stuff. My fears will be appeased or shown accurate. My biggest fears revolve around the crisis that I don’t yet know the shape of, the new thing which shows up and blind sides me with its unexpectedness. Last year I didn’t know to worry about multiplication tables or a new diagnosis cycle. This year there will be something else. I can’t prepare for it because I do not know what it is. So I spend extra energy on the thing I do know. Patch will practice his multiplication tables and we’ll buy him new clothes because he shot up this summer. I’ll call Link’s teachers in advance of school starting. Gleek will go through the contents of her summer homework packet. In between all of that, I will take my kids out and do some fun things. We will try to grasp the last pieces of summer and hold them tight for as long as we can.