4:00AM, the house is silent, eerily quiet. All I can hear is the quiet rhythmic breathing of my husband who has been trained not to snore. I awake at this time, I am not sure why. Is it from the sweat covering my body and forcing me to push my covers aside or is it from an estrogen surge that disturbs my precious sleep?
All I know is that no good thinking comes about at 4:00AM. The irrational fear of catastrophic and seismic events leave me quaking in the silence of these nights. My fear is that these thoughts are not irrational but inevitable and imminent. I toss and I turn as I tackle each unsettling thought without any tools to guide me. My mind spins out of control.
And inevitable I can't fall back to sleep.
This early morning obsessions came packaged in bittersweet remembrances of days not that long ago. Last night marked the last Back To School Night I will ever attend at our public elementary school. This safe haven has been the home away from home to my children for the last eleven years. This year will be the twelfth and final year. I looked around the classrooms at dear friends, familiar acquaintances, and felt the warm embraces of big hearted teachers and administrators. An end was in sight. Our years together as parents were quickly ending. Some of us would meet again, at the much larger public high school, others will opt for private school. In any event, I know our relationships would change. Some I hope to always stay in touch with, others will just be soft remembrances of some of the best days of my life.
The talk last night quickly turned to the readiness of our eighth graders for high school. The teachers instilled in us a hope that this year they would prepare our kids for higher education and for a highly, much more competitive world. I could see in the parents a faint shift, a troubled glance. "Where will my son or daughter fit in and will they excel and be challenged so that all options would be open to them?" I can read my fellow parents thoughts because they are echoing mine. But last night, I felt like I was on a different page. Last night I was one of "THEM."
"THEM!" I can't believe I have turned into one of "THEM." When did it happen?
"THEM" are the old parents I use to look at with fear and trepidation. "THEM" are the old parents who worked tirelessly for our school district. "THEM" are the parents of kids who are getting ready to leave home. "Those poor people," I use to think. "How sad they must feel to be in this stage of life." Quickly, I use to do the math and see how many more years I had until I turned into one of "THEM." And here it is.
But in the wee hours of the morning I didn't think about my sons' departure from my house to their college dorms. I thought about all the distractions that have prevented me from teaching my boys to be men. In a constant attempt to make sure all options are open to them, have I forgot to do the most important job of all? Have I forgotten to teach them to be compassionate men, to stop and breathe and look around, to respect women, to know their moral compass and let it guide them, to take the time to figure out who their God is, or if God exists for them, to talk to a friend in trouble even if it means less studying time and a lower grade in a class, because that friend is far more important than a stupid test, a silly grade, or even where they go to college.
Then, I remembered all my little lessons I have tried to impart along the way, the ones my sons repeat by heart. I realize that all I can do now is lead by example. I need to breathe, I need to take time with my friends, I need to let my kids know that having a long dinner together is more important than their Pre-Calc homework or their Spanish quiz. If I don't, they won't know what is really important. And I am convinced that it is not where you go to college or a big paycheck but the long loving relationships with those closest to you.