Tell me, what do you plan to do with your wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
Last week, as our ninth graders prepared to leave for an adventure in Center City to see a performance of Romeo and Juliet at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival Theatre, another adventure was beginning to take shape. A young owl, flying too close to our new building, hit one of those huge windowpanes near the Lenox Lobby. Many onlookers reported that the owl seemed stunned by the impact, landed, and took temporary shelter on the ledge of the building.
As the busses pulled out of the parking lot, all passengers were treated to a sighting of this owl on its new perch, and, predictably, many cell phones came out of pockets and book bags to capture the image of our owl exploring its new surroundings. When hearing about this event, I imagined that both the owl and its parents were distressed: the parents watching their fledgling from a distance, hovering to make sure that it would be safe, hoping that all they had taught it --- those untested skills --- would serve it well in this moment that was filled with new challenges.
Equally upset, I speculated, was our owl, finding itself separated from its parents --- even though this situation presented the fledgling with just the right experience to test some of its newly developed skills --- to fly on its own for a bit. (By the way, our resident ornithologist and Lower School teacher, Mr. Flood, tells me that young owls very quickly begin to look like adults.)
And, my thoughts turned to you and those anxious, while joy-laden, moments of parenting, when we watch from afar as our children handle all the challenges that come their way. We support them with that butterflies-in-the-stomach gaze, wanting to join them on the stage, the sidelines, or the classroom, but knowing that our role is to encourage them from afar because we have prepared them well for these moments. We constantly experience the most difficult task of not intervening, although every fiber of our beings is urging us to get more involved as our children test their wings and peer over ledges.
As we watch them from afar, our children bravely challenge themselves by performing a solo at the Interacappella Festival, being the goalie during the Springside lacrosse game, leading our school in an inspired composting program, or running for a position in the student government. Through it all, they work on managing the demands and the disappointments, ever strengthening those wings. As parents, we feel confident that we have prepared them for these moments, which call for such inner strength; nonetheless, they tug on our own internal resources as we witness our children’s enormous potential in action.
With great courage, they give their election speeches and prepare themselves for the possibility that they might not win. They practice endlessly to hit that high C with the ever-present possibility that their vocal chords might fail them. They selflessly devote countless hours to planning a school-wide initiative, recognizing the potential that people will not be as excited as they are about that project. They bravely defend our goal in a lacrosse game with the knowledge that they might not be victorious. And, we watch…
Seemingly all at once or least too suddenly (weren’t they just four years old?), we are left to watch our children as they become their independent selves. We support them, tied in the knots of parenting, by cheering from a distance, all the while wanting to be right next to them so that they can feel the warmth of our embrace. As they fledge, their ability to soar depends on our ability to watch ---even if anxiously--- from afar. Those are the moments when our hearts flutter in perfect syncopation with theirs, helping them to prepare for their wild and precious lives.
I hope to see you on campus this weekend and send you my warm regards in the meantime.
P.S. From the College Counseling Office
TRANSCRIPTS FOR ATHLETIC RECRUITING
AIS Athletes (grades 9, 10, 11) who receive transcript requests from college coaches:
• It is the student’s responsibility to send a copy of her unofficial transcript and latest report card to the coach via email or fax. (All students receive a copy of their unofficial transcript at the end of the academic year in June.)
• If a student does not have a copy of her unofficial transcript or her latest report card, she needs to see Ms. Helen Snyder, Manager of Student Records, in order to request these documents. Once in receipt of these documents, the student should keep the originals at home and send copies to the coach(es).