Thoughts on beginnings and endings

Heather Mock

Typically, this time of year is filled with anticipation and excitement as we start the school year. And this year is no different, though it is also filled with trepidation and apprehension given the challenges we are currently facing in this unprecedented time. As parents, we always feel some sense of trepidation when we send our children off to school, but 2020 has added a new layer to this.

As a parent, I’m feeling this trepidation exponentially as I send a child off to college in less than a week. And I’m also feeling a sense of celebration as his high school culminating events just occurred last weekend (they were postponed from May due to COVID). Given that we were still not able to celebrate in the way we normally would, his school took several safety precautions to offer socially distanced versions of events. While we didn’t get to have the hugging, singing, and throwing caps off in a group, we still got to see our children honored for their accomplishments, and they got to celebrate themselves and each other.

And so I find myself simultaneously thinking about endings and beginnings. And I suppose that’s the way it should be. As the late-90’s graduation anthem “Closing Time” states, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” We might view different stages in our lives as chapters in a novel, and each new beginning would not be possible without the chapter that came before.

The more I think about that, the more I like that way of looking at endings and beginnings. They are not finite moments at the start or end of segments of our lives, but instead they are moments of transition that help move us from one stage of our lives to another. By thinking of them this way, we recognize that while these are certainly moments to look back on or prepare for, they are just that – moments in time in a much larger continuum made up of large and small moments alike.

The danger with large moments is that we tend to focus so much on these that we lose track of the smaller, seemingly less significant moments in our lives. We are busy remembering how young our kids used to be that we don’t take a moment to marvel at the humans they are right now. Or we stress out about whether they will get into the “right” college instead of valuing who they are and what they are contributing at this moment. We brush aside the small things to instead reminisce or plan, and when this happens, we may be missing out on many wonderful moments.

I have had so much fun this first week back at Compositive Primary observing classes (outside and socially distanced, of course) and really focusing on these small moments. The moment when a first grader offered to trade her shovel for a rake with a kindergartner as they dug for dinosaur bones. Or the joy on the students’ faces who were exploring what paint, water, and sand mixed together feels like. Or the big smiles (yes, I can still tell they are smiling even with their masks on!) of the students as they created works of art with chalk on the concrete. Each of these moments – of kindness, of exploration, of creativity – are small, but they add up to a life, a life filled with wonder and possibility. As Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I certainly prefer the latter.

While I am quickly approaching another transition moment as I drop my son off at college next week, I remind myself to relish the moments I have with him this week and to help him cherish his small moments as well. And so as you go through your busy day, please take a moment (or several moments along the way) to take a breath, to take a step back, and witness the miracle that is your child. You will not be disappointed. 

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