Practicing Parents

Beginnings and Endings {and Melancholy and Hope and Apprehension and Nostalgia}

~by Jill Clingan

Yesterday was a day of endings and beginnings for me—for us as a family—and this morning I feel a strange mixture of melancholy and hope and apprehension and nostalgia. .

amelie and yona

Yesterday afternoon I drove my daughter to her last piano lesson with her beloved piano teacher, Yona. Yona was my piano teacher when I was her age. We had a very special bond, and when she had to quit teaching she mailed me a letter to tell me, because she just couldn’t stand telling me in person. A year or so after Amélie started taking lessons from her I found that letter. When I unfolded and re-read it, I remembered how sad I felt when I realized that this person whom I loved and adored was no longer going to be a part of my life. (Also, there are a couple of smudges on the letter from my tearstains. Yes, I genuinely—quite genuinely—cried when I read her letter, but I was also in an Anne of Green Gables phase, so for “tragical” purposes I made absolute sure some of those tears landed on the letter.)

I was beyond thrilled to reconnect with Yona a few years ago and to have my very own daughter start taking piano lessons from her. She has left my daughter a beautiful and musical legacy. As I said in the letter I gave to her yesterday, “What a blessing it has been to share my daughter with you, to have her fingers play on the same keys I played on when I was her age, to be taught by the beautiful and amazing teacher who also taught me. You have taught Amélie so much more than scales and notes—you have taught her how to love music and to feel music. I see myself sitting at that bench when I look at Amélie, and I know that I would not love the life and the nuance of music that I love today had it not been for you. What an amazing blessing that someday she is going to look back and say the same thing.”

{Sniff. Sniff. I cried as I wrote those words to her. I do believe I might be crying again. Too bad I am not writing this essay on paper so that my tears could, once again, dramatically splash onto the page.}

We have to quit piano lessons with Yona because we are beginning a new phase in our lives, and she just lives too far away. When we started lessons from her we lived much closer, but after we moved out into the country the trek became much longer. We have managed the long stretch, however, because it was that important to us. But now, we just can’t squeeze that trip into our schedule anymore…because after homeschooling Amélie 5 ½ years, she is going back to public school as a 7th grade middle schooler.

{Sniff. Sniff.}

Although Amélie was doing well in school, had good friends, and her teacher adored her, we pulled her out of public school in the middle of first grade for a myriad of complex reasons that I won’t write about here. It was the best choice for us at that time, and Amélie blossomed as a homeschooler. When my son, Jack, started kindergarten, we wondered if we would feel the same pull to homeschool him, but public school definitely seems like the best fit for him. Last night, without the least bit of anxiety, we walked into his school and met his wonderful third grade teacher.

jack and teacher

After that, we headed to the middle school. I don’t know what Amélie was feeling, but I had butterflies. After we walked in the door (to this big, gigantic school) we got her schedule and headed to her locker. She has never had a locker before, and there were some definite nerves and frustration before figuring out the mysteries of a combination lock (also, I think I had middle school PTSD at that moment—I remember being completely freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to open my locker on the first day of school). Then she walked through where her classes were, which was yet another middle school PTSD moment, since I have absolutely no sense of direction, and had I not gone to a teeny tiny school I would have been late to class every day for at least the first month of class.

amelie locker

I am so proud of Amélie as she bravely faces this new adventure in her life. My heart squeezes with love and admiration and hope. Yet, last night, my heart also squeezed with anxiety and apprehension and fear. I worry that on the first day of school she won’t find her locker, won’t remember the combination, won’t be able to find her classes. I worry that she won’t make good friends. I worry that I have completely failed her as a homeschooling mom and that she will not do well in her classes. I worry that someone will be mean to her. I worry. I worry. I worry.

And then I remember. I remember the verse I hung on to when I was feeling insecure and fearful in middle school, high school, college, grad school, and beyond:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and seek my face. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

So that’s my prayer for both of my precious kids as they start this school year:

That they will remember that God has good plans for them. That they will remember that they have a future and a hope. That they will search for God with all their hearts.

I am guessing that I am not the only parent struggling through beginnings and endings today. I am guessing I am not the only one feeling that strange mixture of melancholy and hope and apprehension and nostalgia. I am guessing that I am not the only one who needs the reminder that we have a future and a hope. Perhaps we can calm those butterflies if we rest in that promise—both for ourselves and our children.


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