Every other Wednesday in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Wyble Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.If your kids aren’t back to school yet, you’ve no doubt noticed the barrage of back-to-school advertising promoting the end of summer and the advent of a new academic year. It’s almost like a secular liturgy, replete with the requisite over-commercialization as we move from one season into another. There are new rituals to formalize and new patterns of time and behavior to mark our days. I’ve always loved this kind of transition, its promise of new beginnings, its array of organizational materials that marked me, from childhood, as an inveterate bookworm. The liturgical calendar is both the same and not the same each year; we, too, can be both the same and not the same.For my elder child, this year marks a shift not just in her schooling but in her extracurricular activities. We keep her (at age 6) to a single activity, which seems appropriate for her age and reasonable for a life filled with family, friends, church, schoolwork, and lots of time for imaginary play. This year, she’s shifted her focus from dance to soccer, a change that surprised her parents and particularly delighted her father, who had begun to despair of either of his children ever participating in a ball sport. To be fair, a soccer ball is about the only ball our six-year-old can reliably identify, so it seems like a good place to begin.
What this means for me is another round of gear and rules that I don’t really understand, and a bout of anxiety about leaving behind a world of dance that had become at least a little more familiar. Perhaps I love liturgy and the liturgical calendar so much because I fear change, and the rhythmic traditions smooth the way for me, moving me along in time with the church immemorial. As a parent, I move in time with the culture of parenthood that allocates our time similarly: a season for all things.I worry that my daughter won’t develop a lifelong passion or the discipline to commit to excellence in an area. These fears are ludicrous, since she’s already demonstrated the commitment to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a dozen times. Also, she’s 6. And I worry too about giving her enough opportunities to try things, to discover her passions, but not so many that our family gets burned out. I don’t want any of us to confuse worldly excellence or busyness with Godly character or the fruit of the spirit. Mostly, I realize in this season of changes that I am totally winging it as a parent. Then I remind myself that my concerns themselves are a mark of my privilege.
What I want my children to learn is to work hard and cultivate joy. I spent most of my childhood summers in my family’s swimming pool, but I never competed on a swim team. As an adult, I swim twice a week for fitness and pleasure, and I’ve refined my skill as I’ve practiced. Part of the reason I love the back-to-school routine of childhood is that it provides a new beginning, the kind that adults are unlikely to experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way, either. We can develop new skills and meet new friends and keep on learning. We can continue to mature in our faith and deepen our relationships with God.
The liturgical calendar is both the same and not the same each year; we, too, can be both the same and not the same. The God whose mercies are new every morning gives us new seasons and new days to start afresh. We can mark our time by hearkening to His call. The secular back-to-school event, and all its attendant transitions, remind me to look to my Creator to see who and how He’s calling me to be at this moment, in this time, moving forward.
Image by Klimkin via Pixabay.