How do we help ourselves, others negotiate transitions? - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

How do we help ourselves, others negotiate transitions?

On the way to the office this morning, the presence and activity of big yellow school buses reminded me that we’ve come to a very special time of the year — that time when our young people go back to school.

For the great majority of them, it will be the continuation of things familiar. But, for a good number, these days mark the beginning of or a significant transition in their school experience.

Little ones — like my grandnephew, Kevin Grignon — will be starting kindergarten. For Kevin, and I assume for many of his contemporaries, this is a magical moment. He and his classmates had a dry-run, corporate visit to their school last week; they have practiced their school-bus routine; they have purchased the necessary supplies. Kevin is as excited as he can be about going to school.

Kevin’s mother, my niece Kathleen, shares her son’s excitement. But hers is not an unalloyed feeling as is Kevin’s. Oh yes, Kathleen is happy with and for her son. She is convinced that he is ready for school and is thrilled that Kevin’s so completely positive about the prospect.

But, Kathleen told me in a recent, lovely e-mail message that she found herself dealing with some challenging feelings and questions — a sense that Kevin is “leaving” her (even if for only three hours a day); feeling that “handing him over” would be difficult. Would he be able to translate what he had learned at home to a new setting?

When Kathleen spoke of her concerns with her husband, Mark, he was understanding. I think he lifted her spirits when, at one point, he said to her, “Look at it this way — you have 13 years left before he is off to college!”

Never having had the experience of sending a child off to school myself, I had to think a bit before sending a response to my niece. In brief, it was that in my opinion she and Mark have been loving, devoted parents whose way with their children has taught the little ones values and lessons that the children can’t now articulate but which have shaped them in wonderful ways and which will always be with them.

Guarantees? No! But the time comes several times along the parental journey when mom and dad have to let go to some greater degree so that their children can come to new levels of maturity and self-identity.

I’d like very much to be around when Kathleen and Mark send Kevin off to college. What will be on Kathleen’s mind then — the questions? The concerns? The wonders?

In the meantime, I have some sense of what might be in Kathleen’s mind in 13 years from talking with friends who are sending their well-grown children off to college this year. They have lots of questions too. And, as I hear them, they are, at the heart of them, not unlike the ones which Kathleen’s dealing with now.

How about you at this special time of the year? Are there any significant transitions going on in your life? Or in the life of anyone that you love very much?

How are you handling it? What’s helpful?

How is your loved one doing? Have you been able to offer your support and encouragement? How?

And, have you received support and encouragement in your own struggles with transition? What has helped you most?

The truth as I see it: It may not be as dramatic as going to kindergarten or moving into college, but every one of us is usually negotiating some sort of personal transition or accompanying a loved one who is.

What a beautiful invitation to prayer. What a beautiful moment in which to appreciate others who are willing to walk through them with us.

Peace to all.

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