Our two children are into the second week of their final quarter of the year. Warm weather, longer days, and budding plants are pushing their thoughts toward summer.
For them, summer equates to vacation, travel, sleeping late and the absence of homework, quizzes, and tests.
When they were younger and needed constant supervision, they turned my summers into chaos as I attempted to string together summer camps with other activities to keep them busy during their weeks off but not so busy that they couldn't enjoy their break.
For our children, the seven remaining weeks of school seem long. For those of us who have a few decades of living under our belts, seven weeks may seem to be a very short time indeed: long enough to plan a dinner party, but too short to plan a fundraiser or a gala.
We all notice that time moves faster as we get older; days, weeks, even months fly by. Recently, I've begun to notice that years too are picking up speed. It seems nearly impossible that our children, whom I once bathed in the sink, are now finishing sixth and eighth grade. With the start of high school, there will be just four years left before our oldest is no longer sleeping under our roof.
While our children are anticipating the final quarter of their school year, I'm contemplating the final quarter of their time at home.
When I was their age, this was a time of transition. My parents divorced when I was a freshman in high school; a year later, my sister Kathy went to college, leaving me with our mother. A teacher by training, she was then working as an office administrator. Her hours were longer than mine, but we made it work.
We didn't talk a lot, possibly because our time together usually occurred after she had completed a long day's work, and was exhausted. I too was exhausted — simply from being a teenager.
But we had our routines: I was a relatively good adolescent, no wild parties, no skipping school or staying out after curfew. Our one explosive conflict came after I came home from a movie with my church youth group. I thought that a friend had told her where I was, but I was wrong, and she was worried. Yes, skipping out to see a movie with a youth group — pretty boring stuff.
My favorite story about our relationship from my high school years was the week I decided to stay home from school because I was "sick." What I meant was that I was sick of school, sick of Carrollton, Ga., just basically sick of whatever I was doing. Certainly imaginable for a high school senior.
My mother allowed me to stay home to "get better," but did require that I cook dinner for the two of us. After five days of staying home and cooking dinner, I realized that there had to be more to life — and back to school I went. Years later, when we talked about my week of "sickness," she let me know that she was fully aware that I was not physically sick, but decided a week at home cooking dinner might motivate me to finish my senior year and move on to college.
She was right.
Life's final quarters — whether attending school, raising children, or playing sports — can be invigorating and exhausting as one particular phase draws to a close. That's when the work is often harder and the anticipation of the next phase can pull us forward too rapidly, focusing our attention on what might be rather than noticing what is — right now.
As our children go through the final quarter of their years with us, my goal is to savor the everyday, ordinary items just a little more: the carpools, the lacrosse games, the strings concerts, and the few family dinners we manage to fit into their crazy schedules. Instead of rushing ahead, to simply relish in the moment — one that will pass all too quickly.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman is the co-author, along with her father, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of the book "5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours." Read more reports from Jackie Gingrich Cushman — Click Here Now.