Thick and Thin
Three years ago, my experience with the notions of “thick” and “thin” changed from personal to parental. As a woman in my forties and the United States, thick and thin typically applies to my thighs or other body parts. But years ago, thick and thin applied to one mighty thing in my life: envelopes; envelopes from colleges and scholarships and various applications.
Three years ago, Biggest entered that point in his life where he too became familiar with thick and thin envelopes. We dealt with his disappointment back then (you can read about it here) but by the time he entered the honors program at our middle school, both he and we were excited about his potential experience to be had there.
Three years have passed and here we are again, facing the truths of thick and thin and how those measurements impact how and where we move forward from here.
A few weeks ago, Biggest applied to the International Baccalaureate program in our school district. One of the essay questions had the expected query about why he was applying and his essay response made me choke up. He wrote about how his first expectation of a classroom was based on having visited my IB classroom over the years back when I was teaching. Oh, how he cried that first day of Kindergarten when he found out he would be sitting at tables (just like in preschool!) instead of a desk with an attached blue chair and a book shelf. For Biggest, IB has always been a part of his reality because that’s what I once taught and he’s always been familiar with it. In fact, it was to my first class of IB juniors that I had to announce my maternity leave with Biggest. So, in many ways IB really has always been a part of Biggest’s reality.
Biggest and I were gone this past weekend as he attended a teen retreat I led in Oregon. Part way through Saturday, I received a text from Mister Soandso. It was Biggest’s application result. My text to Mister Soandso was simple.
“How thick is it?”
In this scenario, we both knew that size truly mattered.
I asked Biggest if he wanted to open it when he got home or have his dad tell us the news. “I’ll wait.”
He brought up the subject on the hour long drive home, reminding me again how much easier it is to talk about one’s feelings on a car ride. We didn’t talk about it much, but enough for us to both know he was worried and excited and wondering how his future was about to change because of the thickness of an envelope. And then we got home.
He walked over to the table, picked up the envelope and then opened it.
The briefest of smiles lifted the corner of his mouth and then he shuffled through the sheets of paper, speed reading. Then he turned to me and smiled. “I got in.” An even more brief hug for me and then he took off to his beloved computer for some “free time” before starting his homework.
And I sat there, on the same couch in the same living room where I’d sat only three years before comforting my crying son. Three years and a different envelope later, I sat alone with only the snores from the dog to keep me company.
I’m glad this envelope was thick and not thin. And I’m even more glad that the results meant he smiled rather than cried.
But I will forever be grateful that my son has had both experiences with thick and thin envelopes already in his life. Because when you get your first taste of disappointment, it goes down easier when you aren’t eating alone. He’ll have many, many more envelopes ahead of him and not all of them will enclose the answers he seeks. However, most of them will be answers he not only learns to live with, but may very well live because of.
We don’t know where our path will take us. But we can know that the journey is valuable regardless of the length and width of the path. I hope Biggest, and all my children, find this to be true.
Congratulations Biggest! Your number one fan never doubted you would be accepted. Oh, I’ve doubted you plenty over the years on the subjects of potty training, nose blowing, chewing with your mouth closed, picking up your socks. Those sorts of things. But I’ve never doubted that you are meant for the things you dream of achieving. And when you get to study at the Hadron Collider or attend school in Norway or watch the night sky in Sweden or all the other things you dream of doing, I will be back at home, cheering you on from the living room couch. You have always been my sun-shine. And soon, you’ll be my star-shine and astro-physics-shine and all those other things you tell me about that we both know I mostly smile and nod along with and absolutely love the passion with which you speak even if the concepts confuse the heck out of me. I love you and am forever proud of you.