You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
- Kahlil Gibran
All my children have graduated from high school and college and are making their own ways in the world, yet I still recall the anticipation that so many of you feel now as your children are poised to graduate. Graduation day belongs as much to you as it does to your sons and daughters. What an accomplishment!
Think back to that amazing, fragile human being you brought into the world - what tiny hands and feet, what tiny toes! I remember watching Jenny for hours, imagining a heart no larger than a grape beating its dependable rhythm in her perfect little chest. I memorized the intricate pattern of veins on Stephanie's translucent eyelids, inhaled the scent of her sweet baby breath. I watched the pulsing soft spot on the top of John's fuzzy head, awestruck by the miracle of a brand new mind.
And as I gazed into their clear eyes, I surely saw recognition. Their souls knew me; we belonged together. I no longer lived for myself, but gladly embraced the solemn responsibility of growing a human being.
By the time my children were toddlers, I wasn't so sure of myself. I saw danger everywhere. Do children have a prior knowledge that metal objects should be inserted into electrical outlets? Why do little fingers fit so handily into the door jamb? What primal instinct makes a toddler stick peas into his nose? But all was forgotten each night when I felt those little arms around my neck as I tucked them into bed and kissed them good night, praying yet again for safe passage to morning.
I remember their first day of school - how I tried to look perky in case they turned for a final look as they walked bravely into the kindergarten room. I knew I couldn't protect them from everything ever again. I ached when classmates, fickle like all children, said a mean thing or called them names, and I cried inside while I explained that names could never hurt them, not believing it for a second.
Every "first" was notable: John's first word was "Bob," the name of the Raley's associate who always made him laugh. Jenny read her first book, Max the Cat, when she attended Wee Express Preschool. Stephanie's first pets were two guinea pigs named Timothy and Patrick. I remember John's first T-ball game as if it were yesterday, as I do Jenny and Stephanie's first dance lesson; their first sleepover; their first loves; their first broken hearts.
Thankfully, I've forgotten many of the scary times, although I will never forget keeping vigil by their bedsides when they were ill, praying for that fever to break, promising God anything to keep my children safe, or wanting to teach them to trust in a world of strangers who might hurt them if they were out of my sight.
Then there were the questions: Where do babies come from? How do they get there? Did you and Daddy do that? The hardest questions were the inevitable ones: Why did Great Grandma die, Mommy? Will you die, Mommy? Will I?
Middle school was tough by anyone's standards. Everything changed; our little angels hovered between childhood and adolescence. The boys noticed the girls; the girls noticed the boys, and no one knew quite how to deal with it all. The Teddy bears, Barbie dolls and GI Joes, the Legos and light sabers lay packed away in boxes. Soccer and baseball uniforms, golf clubs, lip gloss and after shave, boom boxes and CDs and backpacks took their places. In high school, telephones seemed permanently attached to ears, notes folded into mysterious geometrical shapes were stashed in pockets and purses, and peers, not parents, became authorities on everything from diets to dating.
Now here you are, as I have been, ready to wave good-bye to your dear children, young men and women now, as they begin the next leg of their journey. I remember each of my children's high school graduations and the feeling of surprise as I tried to understand how time could pass so quickly. Did I teach them the important things? Will they be strong and smart? Will they be safe? Will they find their soul mates? Will they know how I cherished every moment since I first held them in my arms?
Gibran spoke to us all when he wrote, "Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that his arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves the bow that is stable."
You did a good job, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. Enjoy graduation day. Take it from me - the best is yet to come.
n Marilee Swirczek lives and works in Carson City.