When my twin girls were born in the year 2000, the prospect of their leaving home for college in the year 2018 seemed so far away. There were times, when my wife and I—who were trying to raise our twins by ourselves far away from close family—could not even conceive of a life without diapers, bottles and formula, and periodic meltdowns. At four and five pounds when they were first born, we were on a three-hour cycle of feeding, changing diapers, and naps, and then starting all over again. We loved those moments, but lacked the vision (and energy) to see how these two little babies could ever grow into adults.
But, here we are in the year 2018, and my girls just left home for college. I find myself missing those moments when I could console one of my girls after she skinned her knee, when I could put one of them on my shoulders and go for a walk, when I could read to them at night, or play my guitar while they sang along. But I also know that those moments of bonding and of holding those little girls built a foundation for a close, lifelong relationship with my daughters.
So, I am finding myself reflective as we begin a new school year. Through my three children—who started at CA in first and third grade—I have experienced nearly all of the school’s great traditions as a parent and school leader.
- Every year on the morning before the first day of school, we would take the obligatory family photo before our walk to campus. There was always excitement on that first day.
- I went to the Plains Conservation Center with the third grade as a parent volunteer and helped chaperone a Crow Canyon trip when the girls were in fifth grade.
- We all dressed up together on Halloween for the Lower School parade—one year as a family of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- I helped them pack their bags for the Grade 8 retreat in Leadville and saw their excitement after interims and other outdoor trips.
- I saw them collect ribbons on Lower School Field Day and compete (and win) in the Giant Relay Day race in their senior year.
- I went to countless sports events, concerts, plays, and recitals to see them perform and play.
- Around the dinner table, we would hear about the amazing things they were learning in their classes.
- I got to experience Back-to-School Nights and Parent/Teacher Conferences from the parent perspective, seeing the unbelievable insight teachers had into my children’s personalities and talents.
- We experienced dances and school social events, like the Taste of CA Celebration.
- I went through the college process as a parent and could not have had more trust in the expertise of that office and the support they provided to my kids.
- Finally, I got to see my twins walk together, arm in arm, from the commencement ceremony to rejoin their classmates in the Welborn House after graduation.
CA is a unique place in the sense that there is continuity, but also change. Our kids grow and develop during their years here, and the program evolves with them in age-appropriate ways. Was every moment perfect? No, but there was far more good than bad.
‘Grow and develop’
Like all parents, we dealt with all kinds of issues that children face—no matter where they go to school. One of my daughters initially struggled in an academic subject, but through hard work and the support of great teachers, learned to gain confidence and mastery. There were tears at times over friendship issues. There was stress at times about a major test or assignment. There were some late nights when the homework didn’t make total sense. There were times when they were disappointed they didn’t get chosen for a role in a play or didn’t get as much playing time on a sports team as they wanted. They learned to deal with adults who had different personalities that sometimes conflicted with their own style and comfort zone. Some years, they had high numbers for their Interim options and took a trip that wasn’t necessarily their first choice.
But, guess what? All these experiences—even, and perhaps especially, the tough ones—helped them grow and develop. Those Interim trips that seemed less exciting turned out to be great. They made new friends and connections with faculty. The teachers whose style or approach felt different soon became their favorite instructors. Being turned down for a role or not making a team only motivated them to try harder the next year. When they had friendship issues, they learned that these were actually little moments and not life-defining issues. They learned to put things in perspective and have empathy. They found their friends and developed strong relationships. They even grew relationships with new groups of kids during their time at CA.
‘Take the long view’
So, as we begin this year, I offer parents a very simple piece of advice: take the long view of child rearing. The years will pass quickly, but these kids at CA—even the students who begin at CA in high school—have a lot of time to grow and learn. Years ago, I came to CA because I felt the school’s philosophy resonated with my own educational vision. I have seen this play out in my children’s experience. They have been exposed to new ideas and activities. They have been challenged to step outside their comfort zone. They have been supported and inspired by fantastic, caring teachers. All of that has shaped them.
In saying our goodbyes until we are all back together at Thanksgiving, I just told them how proud I was of them and how much I loved them. You just can’t say that enough to your children. One day, they will be off on their own, and I want them to know of my unconditional support for them.
I wish all of you good luck in the coming school year. Welcome the good news and the bad, and know that every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.