“The end of summer is to me like New Year’s Eve. I sense an end to something carefree and uninhibited, sandy and warm, cold and melting, barefoot and tanned…” Here is a beautiful excerpt from Erma Bombeck’s book, “At Wit’s End.” It is an insightful look at childhood, at growing up, at parenting, at raising kids, at raising OURSELVES. Thanks to my dear friend Jet for sharing this with me. And now I share it with you.
The end of summer is to me like New Year’s Eve. I sense an end to something carefree and uninhibited, sandy and warm, cold and melting, barefoot and tanned. And yet, I look forward with great expectation to a beginning of schedules and appointments, bookbinders with little tabs, freshly sharpened pencils, crisp winds, efficiency, and routine.
I am sadly aware of a great rushing of time as I lengthen skirts and discard sweaters that hit above the wristbones. Time is moving and I want to stop it for just a while so that I may snatch a quiet moment and tell my children what it is I want for them and what all the shouting has been about.
Too fast… you’re moving too fast. Don’t be in such a hurry to trade formulas for formals. You’re going to own your own sports car before you’ve tried to build one out of orange crates and four baby buggy wheels. You’re going to explore the world before you’ve explored the wonders of your own back yard. You’re going to pad with cotton what the Good Lord will provide if you are just patient.
Don’t shed your childhood like a good coat that’s gotten a little small for you. A full-term childhood is necessary as is all phases of your growth. Childhood is a time for pretending and trying on maturity to see if it fits or hangs baggy, tastes good or bitter, smells nice or fills your lungs with smoke that makes you cough. It’s sharing licks on the same sucker with your best friend before you discover germs. It’s not knowing how much a house cost, and caring less. It’s going to bed in the summer with dirty feet on clean sheets. It’s thinking anyone over fifteen is “ancient.” It’s absorbing ideas, knowledge, and people like a giant sponge. Childhood is where “competition” is a baseball game and “responsibility” is a paper route.
I want to teach you so much that you must know to find happiness within yourself. Yet, I don’t know where to begin or how.
I want you to be a square. That’s right, a square! I want you to kiss your grandmother when you walk into a room even if you’re with your friends. I want you to be able to talk openly of God and your love for Him. I want you to lend dignity to the things you believe in and respect for the things you don’t believe in. I want you to be a human being who needs friends, and in turn deserves them. I want you to be a square who polishes his shoes, buttons the top button of his shirt occasionally, and stands straight and looks people in the eye when they are talking to you. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. I want you to know the difference.
I want you to be a cornball, a real, honest-to-God, flag-waving cornball, who, if you must march, will tell people what you are for, not what you are against….
Please remember to have compassion….
…If I could only be sure all the lessons are sinking in and are being understood. How can I tell you about disappointments? You’ll have them, you know. And they’ll be painful, they’ll hurt, they’ll shatter your ego, lay your confidence in yourself bare, and sometimes cripple your initiative. But people don’t die from them. They just emerge stronger. I want you to hear the thunder, so you can appreciate the calm. I want you to fall on your face in the dirt once in a while, so you will know the pride of being able to stand tall. Learn to live with the words “No! You can’t! You’re out! You blew it! I don’t know.” And “I made a mistake.”
Adults are always telling young people, “These are the best years of your life.” Are they? I don’t know. Sometimes when adults say this to children I look into their faces. They look like someone on the top seat of the Ferris wheel who has had too much cotton candy and barbecue. They’d like to get off and be sick but everyone keeps telling them what a good time they’re having.
Do not imagine for a moment that I don’t feel your fears and anxieties. Youth does not have an immunity from disappointments and heartbreaks. No one does.
Fears begin the day you were born: fear of baths, bed wetting, the dark, falling off the sink where you are being bathed, strangers throwing you into the air and not catching you, going hungry, noises, open pins.
Later, it’s monsters, parents leaving and not coming back, death, hurts, and bad dreams. School only adds to anxieties. Fear of not having friends, being called upon and not knowing the answers, telling the truth when you’re going to be punished, not getting to the bathroom in time, not being liked by a baby sitter, not loved by your parents when a new baby arrives in the house. As you mature, they continue to multiply. Fear of not achieving, not having friends, or not being accepted, not getting the car, worrying about war, marriage, career, making money, being attractive to the opposite sex and making the grades to graduate.
Fears are normal. We all have them. Parents have the greatest fears of all. For we are responsible for this life which we have brought to this world. There is so much to teach and the time goes so fast…
Photo credits: “path” by shoothead; “summer’s end” by harold.lloyd; “Fun Suburban Soap Bubbles” by D Sharon Pruitt; “Gentle Windchimes” by D Sharon Pruitt; “Bright Green Spring Leaves” by D Sharon Pruitt;