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The Last Wave
by Amy Kenneley

Our littlest grandson begins kindergarten this year. I wrote this when his own dad was just a boy, just yesterday when I was waving goodbye to him and his siblings....

Today, hundreds of school-bound children went out of the doorways of hundreds of homes and something did not happen for the first time. They did not turn back to wave goodbye.

A conspiracy? No, they came from separate blocks, separate cities across the country, and perhaps even they did not think about it consciously. There wasn't one who thought "Okay, today I stop the waving thing"

Probably most mothers or fathers who stood at their doorways or dropped off their kids at bus stops or school yards didn't even notice that it didn't happen, or if they did, thought their child was thinking of something else, and forgot.

They will be right-they did forget.

That is the real dividing line between childhood and that long road towards the adult world-that wave goodbye. It is not the material things of first car keys, first cell phone, first lipstick, first date signaling a move out of childhood.

They-and we-have come to think of growth in terms of FIRSTS instead of LASTS, and growth is the future where our children and our grandchildren are heading.

Does the child every remember LASTS? The last time he couldn't tie his shoe, the last time she played with her dolls?

Remembering LASTS is for old folks who have longer memories and shorter futures.

That is why, when they turn to wave goodbye to you, standing in your doorway, you will not know it is the last time they will do it, nor will they.

It will just happen, as though some innate time clock inside them has pointed their head towards the goal at the end of the street-towards school, adventure, friends.

Of course it is not THE END-they have a lot of growing to do, and you will still have a lot of parenting ahead! But that day when they don't turn back to wave signals more eloquently than any calendar date or papered certificate what is going to happen.

No longer does he need to see your face as reassurance before setting out. No longer does she need to see your smile as benediction on her day.

Well, that's what we have been striving for, isn't it, this confident stepping out to meet new challenges?

And if we have done our job well, they will need less and less the outward reassurances of our waves, and carry with them instead the inner security of our love and good wishes.

So out they go, with half-combed hair, books and pencils in disarray, with unbuttoned coats and shoelaces dragging, and when they reach that certain spot on the sidewalk---no mark there to be sure, but that certain spot nonetheless-where they always turned to wave goodbye, they will keep walking-- straight towards the future.

When that day comes, mark it in your heart, for it signals much for them--and much for you.

Today hundreds of children did not turn to wave goodbye. One of them was yours. One of them was mine.

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