I hope my long absence from the blog hasn't gone unnoticed. A lot has been simmering at our house and this week it is boiling (and I am bubbling) over. My heart is so full.
For the last four years (plus a year at the Prep School) our son has been on a journey to graduate from West Point. It is a goal he has had since he was about seven, when he told his dad he wanted to be a soldier. I had never even heard of the place, but the Captain put the dream in Matt's heart. "If you want to be a soldier, you should go to West Point."
Last Saturday, he did it. He is now Second Lt. Matthew Michael Sims, United States Army. This Saturday, we head back to New York and are delighted to welcome a new addition to our family as (after an 18 month engagement) he marries his fiance, Melissa.
Two weeks after his wedding, our daughter, Mary, graduates from high school. Seventeen days later she reports to the Coast Guard Academy. What a banner senior year she has had, getting into both West Point and The Coast Guard Academy, up for Scholar Athlete in our county (complete with photo in the newspaper) receiving recognition from her teachers with outstanding student awards. And, most important, being described by her teachers as one who "approaches everyone she meets with kindness and compassion". And the best part of watching it all unfold has been Mary's own amazement, shock, surprise that these honors are really hers.
I just keep thinking about the wonder of it all.
The Vice President spoke at West Point's graduation. A relaxed speaker who addressed the cadets more like a buddy than the Vice President of the United States, Biden laughed a lot, cursed a lot and admonished the newest army officers that they would get the job done. For the most part, a pretty inspiring speech, and what an honor to hear a sitting Vice President in person.
Hats were tossed and children scurried across the field to find notes and money the cadets had tucked inside for them, a tradition at all the academies. It is unanimous among cadets, it seems, that they never want to see that West Point uniform again. When Matt asked if I wanted his, I immediately said YES. It is hanging in my closet, awaiting his younger brother Ben's uniform to hang alongside it in 2019.
When I was a young mom, I had trouble seeing where it was all going. I remember those long days and longer nights. I remember those homeschooling years when Matthew and I would lock horns and he would stomp up the stairs and say "I'm staying up here for the rest of my life!" I recall one of the many times when he and Ben locked horns and ignored my request to knock it off. I picked up the phone. "You're not calling DAD are you?"
I certainly was. Captain Fun was commuting for a season, but I knew he would back me up. He has always been my secret weapon. We lived in Vermont at the time, and the Captain sent one son out front to shovel snow and one son out back.
But time changes everything. And Matt, a senior (Firstie) and Ben, a freshman (Plebe) were just two floors apart in the barracks this year. They saw each other pretty often and were intentional about eating together whenever they could. It took some time, but brotherly love, at last, did prevail.
Motherhood is like that. There are days you muddle through it, sometimes with your head in the clouds, other times buried deep in the sand. You mold them, scold them and ask them how many times you have told them. Then one day the BFE (Big Fat Envelope) comes in the mail, and it all makes sense. Of course. I get it. He was born to be an Army officer.
And Mary, who runs like the wind. I remember signing her up for summer track session in Vermont, just to put her in something. She had only just finished first grade, but she took right to it. In middle school she was introduced to hurdles and in high school she set records. After 12 years of track, she is running for the Coast Guard Academy. I have loved watching her run, and all those hours she put in make sense to me now.
Hindsight is 20/20. It is the little things that serve as the foundation for the big things; the ordinary days that bring extraordinary moments. The practices, the the meets, overcoming injuries, working through the papers, passing the exams. As parents, it is our job to help them see it through. Not always easy, but always worth it.
The moment when all the work, all the struggle, all those ordinary days begin to form a big picture. It is a picture that is upon you by the time you realize it. And that's when, at last, it all makes sense. And though there are days, weeks, years, that parenting seems too monotonous, when it is time for them to leave you, you get it. And they get it. Then, together, you can bask in the reward, the richness, the wonder of it all.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?"