Once upon a time, the school year was relatively easy to follow: It was, essentially, Labor Day to Memorial Day.
But we have more federal holidays to recognize and cultural tributes to offer now, and the school year is extended to accommodate them. The turning of the calendar to August means a scholastic preseason of open houses, orientations and registrations.
For many parents--or grandparents, or guardians, or caregivers--it simply means more rounds of goodbye.
Sending the kids off to school--whether down the street to kindergarten or across the country to graduate school--is one roller coaster of a ride. The blind-faith gut punch of dropping them off for the first time at daycare/preschool/kindergarten. The 100-proof joy of picking them up or walking through the door at the end of the day as they jump into your arms. In those moments, all is right with the world.
Eventually, their own blind faith in you is replaced by the skepticism of adolescence, the outstretched arms replaced by somber acknowledgement. Still, all remains right.
Eventually, there is no more picking up after school, no more seeing them after practice or at the end of the workday. No more familiar sounds of footsteps in the upstairs hallway, no more calls of "When's supper?" or the rhythm of basketballs out back.
A scene in the 2016 French-Japanese animated fable "The Red Turtle" reminds us of this bittersweet rite of passage. The film's animation alone is worth a watch. And though it's dialogue-free, the absence of vocal clutter belies the depth of the story's resonating message. In fact, the lack of dialogue enhances it. Language is a necessary gift of the species, but so often it's most effective when simply conveyed. Here, adrift in this 21st-century pop-political yelling match, we seem to have forgotten that.
The film's shipwrecked protagonist finds himself on an Eden-like island, from which a giant red turtle thwarts his attempts to leave. Ultimately, the turtle transforms into his Eve, and the pair give birth to a son.
The boy is raised in a state of bliss; the island and surrounding sea providing everything they need if willing to work. No moment is left not fully savored; every ounce of satisfaction squeezed from the fruits of their lives together.
Ultimately, symbolic August dawns on the island. Now a young man with his own path to follow, the son bids farewell to his parents. They hurt, but understand that he must leave. And let go.
As painful as letting go can be, all is right with the world when we do so at the proper time.
Blind faith is at a premium these days, especially where kids and schools are concerned. Thus, a simple August reminder: hug your kids this month as you send them off to school. Savor every moment. And don't be afraid to take that one last gut punch when it's time for them to leave the island.