The waiting (way-ay-ay-ting) is the hardest part.
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to stop worrying over what I can’t control. I’ve also told my two girls this, particularly the oldest, Peyton, who seems to have inherited my worry gene. Apologies for that portion of my DNA. And apologies for reneging on a resolution so soon after making it.
But when you have two children applying to umpteen different schools, worrying often tops the list. All I know for sure is that next year I will have two freshmen somewhere. Katherine will be a freshman in high school, and Peyton will be one in college. But where? That is the question.
The applications, transcripts, teacher recommendations, essays--so many essays--have all been sent. The tours, the interviews, the Facebook reconnaissance are now out of the way. Actually, the Facebook stalking continues, as the girls check out what other students at various schools are up to. Admittedly, I check them out as well. Do kids look friendly, drunk, inappropriate? See, girls? This is why I’ve always told you NOT to stick out your tongue or show midriffs. And, please, no red solo cups.
I talk to other parents about this process and most, if they’re honest, say it’s tortuous. But others say they are taking a laissez-faire approach. “Oh, I have no idea what his essay is even about,” one friend tells me with a straight face. At first I think, Wow, something must be wrong with me because I am worried sick about everything. And then my thoughts turn darker: that mother is lying. That, or she’s just highly evolved and I am not. Damn DNA again.
I’m not proud of these drifting--and sometimes diabolical--thoughts. But I am proud that the girls’ father and I have stayed out of the selection process. Both Peyton and Katherine chose the schools to which they would apply. One thing we learned was that the more we nudged them in one direction, the more they veered toward another. In the end, the schools--if they are fortunate enough to get in any of them--would all be good choices.
But, of course, I’ve already started worrying about what will happen to them at a new school. Will they make friends easily? Will they like the school? Will they be prepared? Will they be happy? Will they be safe? As I write this, I realize these are the same concerns I had when the girls entered kindergarten.
“Wherever I end up is where I should be,” Peyton tells me. “I can’t worry about it any more.”
“That’s right,” I say. “It’s out of your control now. You’ve done you’re best and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
But what I really mean is this: Don’t worry, I’ll worry for you. Will I ever stop worrying? I’d like to say yes, but then I’d be lying.
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
A few weeks ago, the Christmas tree sparkled with twinkling lights and glitter in our living rooms.
Today, the Christmas tree has, literally, been kicked to the curb. Dogs sniff and pee on it, wondering how long this additional outhouse on the sidewalk will last. Pretty packages adorned with silky ribbons once gathered around the evergreen. Now it’s surrounded by grayish piles of snow, crusted salt and crumpled candy wrappers.
But like life, there’s a time and place for everything. The Christmas tree is a good example that nothing lasts forever, nor should it.
Most people hate taking down the Christmas tree. It’s never as exciting as putting it up. But for me, putting away the Christmas decorations, sweeping out the dried needles and cookie crumbs, is cathartic. Just like the new year, it feels like a new beginning. We hit the refresh button and start over.
Could we also do this in our lives and not just our living rooms? I think of sweeping out what’s no longer working, whether personally or professionally. Snarky “friends” who make constant jabs--in jest, of course-- need to go. The pants, gathering dust in the closet, tags still attached, that you’re never going to wear? Gone. Extra pounds from too much Pinot Grigio and pumpkin pie? Gone. Worrying about what we can’t control. Gone. Okay, that one is harder to get rid of, but it’s worth trying. Worrying about what other people think is another one that goes in the easier-said-than-done, but necessary trash pile.
Because when we get rid of what’s not working, we make room for what does work. We create breathing room in our houses and lives.
I look at our tree waiting for the next trash pick-up, and I feel a little sorry for it. But sorrow is the wrong emotion. It did its job. What I need to feel--and do feel--is gratitude for what it gave us. And what it’s giving us now: room to grow.
Walking down the brick sidewalk, my black boots crunching over dried, yellow leaves, I spot a young mother and her toddler walking toward me. The dark-haired little girl, wearing a quilted, navy blue jacket and pink tutu, grasps her mother’s hand, slightly swinging as they stroll by. I catch the mother’s eye, nodding hello. The little girl is singing a familiar tune that catches me off guard, taking me back 15 years.
“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round...”
I don’t know why the song resonates so much, but I want to start singing. The thing is, when my children were growing up singing that song, I didn’t even like it. It drove me nuts.
“And the horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep.”
“And the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.”
God, will this song ever end? That’s what I probably thought while Peyton sat on my lap during circle time, patting her pudgy hands to the beat of the bus song.
Now, I turn my head and watch the mother and daughter walk out of sight, the little singsongy voice growing fainter as it “beep, beep, beeps” down the sidewalk.
Maybe it’s a hormonal shift or the shift in seasons, but I suddenly want to cry. And so I do. Hard. Luckily, I make it to the car before the waterworks start pouring in earnest. Does that mother know how lucky she is? Does she know how quickly this moment will pass? Does she appreciate the simplicity of walking hand in hand on a crisp fall day?
Did I appreciate it at the time?
I often feel the weight of nostalgia--or is it melancholy?-- when the seasons change. But this year, even more so. The sight of this mother and child singing seems like a wake-up call, a reminder. Pay attention. Appreciate the moment when you’re in it. It doesn’t last long.
Older parents often tell younger parents this. I’ve written past essays on the topic: "Taking Off" and "Children and the Corn." But I’m really feeling it now, with Peyton in the throes of applying to colleges. Eighteen years ago, she was still in my belly, beefing up for a December debut. Now she’s gearing up for another journey.
Yes, the wheels on the bus go round and round, faster than ever. And while we can’t always control the speed--or bumps along the way--we keep on moving.