Monday, September 7, 2009

Two Days Left of Summer

My kids have two days left of their summer vacation.

Two more days to sleep late. Two more days to go barefoot. Two more days to wear pajamas until noon, or play XBOX with the neighbors, or jump in the swimming pool at lunchtime, or sleep over at a friend's house on a Sunday night.

Do you remember the last few days before going back to school? The anticipation of seeing the friends whom you haven't kept up with over the summer? The excitement at running into that "crush" you've been thinking about since June? Wondering who'll look the same and who'll look totally different? Worrying about navigating through a new middle school building, after so many years in the same school? When your parents decide it's time to start getting ready for bed early again, but your body and mind are still on their summer schedule and sleep seems impossible...

When kids are little, they live in the moment. Everything is immediate. A crisis may be intense, but it usually ends at bedtime, and the new day dawns with fresh possibilities and a new outlook. My daughter just turned nine. She can tell me at dinner that I'm ruining her life, and the next morning be all smiles, argument (thankfully) forgotten.

As children grow older, they expand their thoughts, anticipations, and worries to include the near future. My soon-to-be eighth grader is thinking ahead to his whole school year, up to and including the class trip at the end. But he's not yet thinking beyond to high school or college. My soon-to-be sixth grader is just hoping he finds his classrooms on the first day without looking foolish. I love this age - where they can plan and anticipate, but not worry too far into the future. No grey hair in middle school. It's a perfect age to write for, because while the problems are still immediate and need to be on an individual level, they can have an arc that's longer than a day.

When you get to high school as a freshman, you start to think ahead to the whole four years, but it really isn't until after the start of junior year that you start worrying about what's next. And college age students vary widely, depending on their personalities. When I was in college, my goal was to spend my junior year in England. I worked very hard to get the grades to go on the program, but found when I returned to the US, I had no future plan. (I scrambled to come up with one. I still feel like I'm working on it.)

As an adult, I can worry about stuff that won't happen for years. My daughter going on dates. Kids' college payments. Whether I can make a career of writing. Whether we'll ever afford Retirement.

I found my very first grey hair last week.

I cut it out with nail scissors.

Carpe Diem. At least for two more days of summer.

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