I love "back to school" time. I like to mark each school year's beginning in some symbolic way -- you know speeches, ticker tape parades -- that kind of thing. We have boxes of annual pictures with our children holding signs that say, "First day of (fill in whatever school year)" since they started pre-school (although it has gotten considerably harder to get them to agree to take the pictures).
Every year, I think of the words of wisdom I want to impart on my children as they don their proverbial backpacks. Since I was a child and to this day, any time I embark on a challenge, my father gives me what we affectionately call a "Polonius" speech. The reference comes from Shakepeare's Hamlet, in which Polonius, chief counselor to the king, provides words of wisdom to his son, Laertes, as the young man heads off to Paris. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Or "to thine own self be true." Roughly translated, this was is dad's way of saying. "You go girl! Rely on yourself. You can do this. Hold your head high." The "Polonius" was and still is a comforting ritual, a protective cloak I wear into each new experience.
For our children, my husband and I have our own versions of Polonius, pep talks, sports analogies -- you name it. But on this occasion of our oldest starting college, I feel the need to "up my game." What can I possibly say to her on this momentous occasion, at the start of an important chapter -- where her interests are discovered, lifelong friendships formed, mind expanding classroom experiences happening.
As luck would have it, I strolled into her university's bookstore during a much-needed break in the move in process. And then I saw it -- Oh the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss. Now, I have read this book about 1,000 times -- as a kid, to my kids. But as our daughter starts her first day of college, I read its bright, cheerful pages with new eyes. This book has everything I want to tell our daughter -- that the world is filled with endless possibilities that she should go out and grab. That she can do whatever she sets her mind to. That while she might hit roadblocks and stumble, we know that she will get back on her feet. And that we are right behind her every step of the way. AND that no matter what, we believe in her. And believe me, we have said versions of all that to her countless times.
But honestly, it sounds so much better the way the good doctor said it.
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!
Well said, doctor. Now you go girl!