Little kids clutch their mom or dad’s hands as they walk into a new school; bigger ones perhaps run ahead with their friends, or drive off to college. Outwardly we celebrate these milestones with proud smiles and encouraging words, even if inwardly our emotions might bounce and jerk like yo-yos.
Our 27-year-old son, Ariel — whom some of you have watched grow up in my stories on these pages — is about to buy his first house. Geographically speaking, this isn’t his biggest step, since the house is just a few miles from ours, and the kid lived for almost eight years in other countries on three continents.
He went to Argentina for a yearlong high school program, a year and a half before Charles and I expected to be empty-nesters. He went to college up in Vancouver, instead of down the hill at UNM (or as a friend calls it, “University Near Mom”), spent his junior year of college in Spain, and then lived in Germany for a year after graduation with the girl he fell in love with in Spain.
The charms of New Mexico — green chile, blue skies, our cat — blessedly lured Ariel back to the states four years ago for graduate school. He landed a job in Santa Fe, and for the last two years he has lived with us during the workweek and gone to Albuquerque on weekends to the house he shared with a friend. Now he’s ready to find a place of his own in Santa Fe.
Geographically, I know, a few miles doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world.
Emotionally, it’s a longer flight, as this may mark the last time our little bird lives in our nest.
At this point in our lives, Ariel’s presence is a particularly graceful one. Yes, he does his own laundry. He cleans the kitchen after himself (and, sometimes, all three of us). He makes grocery runs. Better than that, he brings a fresh energy to our stable, steady lives. The kid is meeting adulthood with the optimism of a relative newcomer, for whom holding a job, fixing his car, even filing a tax return, are still new experiences, each in their own way a little wondrous.
“Go forth and conquer,” Charles tells Ariel as he leaves the house for work in the morning, and Ariel replies, “I fully intend to.” And he does, with bravado, humor and a heaping dose of compassion.
Parents are their children’s first teachers, so the adage goes, but somewhere along the way we discover how much our children are teaching us. Perhaps the most precious lesson I get from this kid is his gentle way of showing me a door in what looks to me like a solid wall. Funny thing is, he might say he got this lesson from Dad and me, but it comes back around as something spanking new.
These themes — separation, individuation, independence and attachment — are woven throughout this issue. Abby Bordner, of United Way of Santa Fe County, describes the butterflies parents feel when their child goes off to pre-kindergarten (“Off On the Right Foot”). Will they be safe? Will they have the confidence to ask for what they need? Will they make friends?
Dona Durham, an educational therapist and consultant, offers suggestions for parents of children with special educational needs, for whom a new school year may present even more uncertainty and anxiety than it does for other kids (“Running Towards the Goal,” in English, and “Cómo lograr su objective” as translated into Spanish by Flor de María Oliva).
Rosemary Zibart talks about the unique challenges of foster parents, for whom the cycle from opening their heart and home to a child, to saying goodbye, might take place in a matter of months, days or even hours. (“Kit Coyote: Children’s Champion”).
Our “Long-Timers Club” article in this issue, honoring people and organizations that have been serving families for 15 years or more, pays tribute to “Many Mothers,” the program founded by our late, dear friend and advisory board member Anne McCormick, which matches volunteers with moms (and some stay-at-home dads) who want support through the seismic adjustment to parenthood.
We bring back an article from our archives, written almost 10 years ago by Brenda Dominguez, a recipient this year of a Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award, with input from several other SFPS teachers (“Since You Asked…”). Teachers! Please accept our invitation to share your thoughts and wishes in Tumbleweeds, whenever, however and about whatever you’d like!
Summer fades out early up here in the mountains. Well before Fiesta weekend, the shadows are already growing longer, and the morning air has a bite. Soon, El Rancho de las Golondrinas will observe a traditional colonial harvest — complete with crushing grapes by foot and stringing chile ristras — the first weekend in October (Fall 2016 Calendar). The “Horno Man,” Francisco Ochoa, will fire up the outdoor oven for biscochitos at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum’s Harvest Festival the following Saturday. Fall is a feast of change, letting go, and readying for new growth.
For those of you whose little birds are still at home, this older Mama Bird has a piece of advice. Kiss them on their beaks, stroke their feathers, and take a moment to marvel at their growing wings. As always, we invite you to share what you see.