Friday, May 29, 2015

Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school in my town. The last day is always an exciting one for children, and a day often filled with many emotions for parents. Parents may be anticipating summer adventures with their kids but they may also be feeling the stress of full-time childcare expenses. Some will feel sadness that another chapter in a child's life is finished or a sense of loss if there was a close partnership with a teacher. There can be waves of nostalgia if the child will be attending another school in the fall. A parent might be dreading the late nights, messy bathrooms and depleted larders that are the earmarks of summers in households with teens. And the last day of high school carries a deep bittersweet feeling all its own.

Whatever you're feeling, one parenting practice that serves well in times of transition is the "marking of days." A wise friend initiated my family marking of the last day of school.
It was not unusual, simply a backyard gathering where we stopped and talked over the highlights of the year just ended. The older kids told the younger ones about their 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) grade memories and everyone shared plans and wishes for the summer and the next school year over burgers and chips. It was informal, and familiar (we frequently gathered in that backyard) but it sealed the year somehow, and created a bridge we crossed into summer.

In Old Testament times significant events were marked by building an altar. The books of Genesis through Judges contain at least 14 stories of building altars. The stories featured famous Biblical
characters: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Gideon, Saul, David, Solomon, and Elijah. These stories provide us with a simple formula for the marking of days:
  • Stop.
  • Remember.
  • Then build something
  • Out of natural or readily available materials.

Like our informal backyard gathering where we built burgers and remembered, most families probably have some type of ritual that has evolved over the years: going camping, putting the dock in the water, visiting Grandma, or moving seedlings from indoors to the garden. The stopping and doing are important. Adding the remembering and familiar, tangible materials makes it a full-blown marking of the day. It adds meaning and intention to a day already filled with feeling. Marking days builds bridges between times and places.

You can plan for many important/transitional days throughout the year, creating personal family markings. In doing so you also indirectly prepare for the unexpected days. The Old Testament characters who were building altars were marking the times and places where God "showed up." That was what made the remembering so important. Remember the days that God "showed up" during the school year just ended: the answered prayers, the unexpected perfect response on your tongue to the difficult question asked, the miraculous encounter in nature or with another being. God is still showing up. Mark those days too, and revisit them often.