J. Alfred Prufrock, the topic of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Purfrock” (a poem I won’t miss teaching this year), measured out his life in coffee spoons. The question always came up, “What kind of man measures his life in coffee spoons?” In the years that I taught juniors and seniors, I sometimes wondered, “What kind of woman measures her life in grading research papers?” It was a sobering question—a question that many women ask; they just replace the gerund phrase with another mundane activity. What kind of woman measures out her life in changing diapers, driving kids to activities, finding the bugs in the next computer program? The list goes on and on.
For me I usually think of the start of a new year as coming in August. This year has brought changes—some I asked for, some I didn’t. Christa, your world too is changing. As I’ve sat behind your family the last few weeks in church, it has struck me how old your kids are becoming. You will soon leave the preschool years behind and you’re entering the world of high school, and I thought, “maybe I need to change up some of these journals.”
What I remember most about teenagers and high school was whirlwind craziness, laughter, frustration, and some of the most fun and scary times I’ve ever had. There you sit on the brink of the fastest slide to grown children than you can ever imagine.
I think that the hardest thing for me as a parent was and is the realization that I have so little control over the ones I love most. Parents teach and train. We aren’t perfect, but we generally do the best we know how. What we want most is for our children to reach out to the God we know is their only hope and strength to navigate this fallen and enticing world. But, in the end they each decide the path to tread.
I think the thing I would tell you about children is to flex with each new phase—to embrace the newness, to not look too longingly at the younger phases you leave behind. There’s always something exciting and rejuvenating in a new direction.
The sad thing about J. Alfred Purfrock in his poem is that at the end, he never changed. He just stayed paralyzed in his coffee measuring routine. Look to the future with hope, not regret. Reach to the future, anticipating good things. I’m hoping to do the same. There were lots of things I loved about teaching sophomores that I’d forgotten over the last 12 years. I’m finding joy in them, and one of those things is that “The Love Song of J. Alfred Purfrock” is not in their curriculum.