Tonight we went to the annual dinner sponsored by our kids’ K-12 school. It’s been 2, 4, and 6 years since our kids graduated from high school, but we are very grateful to the place and continue to support it however we can.
But, going to the dinner every year is a little like Rick Nelson’s old song, Garden Party. You may remember these lyrics: ” If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck. But if memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck.”
Lots of memories at tonight’s dinner. We saw most of our kids’ teachers, the principal, and parents with kids younger than ours who overlapped with our kids’ tenure at the school. Good memories, for the most part. Sure, there were a few middle school and high school moments that weren’t so pleasant on recall, but they were outnumbered by the good things the dinner helped us remember. But, if memories were all we shared, I’d rather drive a truck. The best part of the dinner was not the memories it triggered, but the “flowing river effect. ” In addition to all the old faces, we saw many young parents whom we have never met. They had no idea who we are or who our kids are. Unaware of the hours we had spent volunteering, coaching, room-parenting, driving field trips. Unaware of our kids’ sports heroics, student council war stories, school newspaper articles, SAT scores, or even their graduation speeches that seemed so earth-shattering at the time.
School is like a flowing river. New kids always arriving as the older ones leave for college and beyond. Each new class’ parents thinks their kids’ experiences will be groundbreaking, unique, novel. Each class of graduates’ parents, in turn, believes their kids’ experiences were groundbreaking, unique, and novel; never to be reproduced. Year after year, kids flow through a school. As a professor, I have watched this with my own medical students for the past 30 years. The new freshmen are frightened and awestruck; the graduating seniors know it all and no one will ever know more. When alums come back to visit, to a person they comment on how young the curent students look. Did we look that young, they ask? And the river continues to flow.
If memories were all we shared, I’d rather drive a truck. The best part of annual school dinners, graduations, and reunions is not the memories, but the panoramic view of the flowing river. The view is even more special if you are lucky enough, as we have been, to feel as if you experienced your kids’ school years vividly and intimately. When you look at the parents of new kindergartners, will you feel the contentment of knowing you were there for, and with, your kids when they were in kindergarten. And first grade? And second? Did you find the time? Did you make the most of the time you found?
Choose the No Regrets Parenting approach to your kids’ K-12 years so you can look forward to looking back someday. Look forward to looking back with fondness and nostalgia, but without regrets about missing the important things in life.