Liz and I as educators are very deliberate previewers. We practiced our kindergarten morning routine for two weeks before the boys began school. Part of that had to do with the big change in routine for them from their summer and pre-school days, and part of it had to do with wanting to make sure that they were ready to go to school. For us, a humbling dynamic of being a parent is that you are constantly creating these parallel experiences. And for me, really great parenting is knowing when to have boundaries between these parallel experiences and when to have them merge. By that I mean that we worked hard with the boys to get them ready for the first day of school; we wanted them to feel in control and confident. While at the same time, we were preparing ourselves to let them go. And we were preparing ourselves for the uncomfortable moment that comes from stepping into the unknown.
In many of the recent senior speeches the students have talked about being uncomfortable and how they overcame that uncomfortableness through a growth mindset. From these speeches I have been reminded that two things go hand-in-hand in adolescence: uncomfortableness and boundaries. The physiological growth and the emotional identity building that take place during adolescence is just uncomfortable. The most tangible way this happens is for kids who grow very fast. Their joints hurt; their body hurt. Life is just painful. This is why giving adolescents room to figure out who they are is so important. While at the same time we must create clean boundaries. We all know that adolescents are risk takers, but through those risk is how they learn who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Where are they willing to grow? Where aren’t they? Learning those answers is part of defining who they are. It’s amazing to see kids grow into this understanding over the course of four years. So to me, this whole notion of uncomfortableness is important because we have to learn to have flexibility and guardrails. And this is the beauty of high school: it’s not formulaic and we don’t have all the answers. We don’t actually know who our students are going to become, but we have a sense of who they might be and what we need to do to get them there.
One of the reasons Liz and I are previewers is because it gives our boys a chance to try things on. We also preview because we have an idea how things should go. Selfishly, previewing also helps assuage some of our anxiety as it can be difficult to step away as a parent. We care a great deal about our boys and we want things to go well. But no matter how much previewing we do, or how flexible we think we’ve become, things still don’t go our way. And that’s ok because when we find ourselves in those uncomfortable moments we do the best we know how.