By Kim Kiehl, Executive Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

All across the country it is a bittersweet time of year…back to school time. This time of year inevitably brings transition. It doesn’t matter if you are bringing your child to a new classroom here at SEEC, sending your child off to Kindergarten, or sending him off to college, the rituals and the feelings are the same. Transitions are tough. Transitions mean change. Transitions bring emotions. As I watch the start of the new school year here at SEEC I often wonder who the transition is more difficult for…the parents or the children. Sure, the children are crying and calling for mommy and daddy as they move to a new room with new friends. But I promise you that the crying stops soon after you leave as they become involved in the wonder of learning and the excitement of first friends. But for us parents that feeling often lingers over our morning coffee, into that first meeting of the day and through that long team meeting after lunch. While my own children are adults, now 30 and 26, as I watch parents as they drop off here at SEEC I can still feel that pull of leaving your child and not being sure it will be OK.  Whether we are bringing our child to a new early childhood classroom or dropping them off at college it’s all the same. At both ends we have to give up our children in some way. we have to let them go the become who they are going to be…often without us.

Still, I love this time of year. I love the planning and the school supply shopping. I love the promise of the days being more organized and ordered. Don’t get me wrong…I totally love summer, but autumn is like the first day of the new year to me. It is a new start and a new beginning. I make resolutions in the the fall. I start new calendars and develop new ways of keeping things organized. I resolve to follow a schedule this year. I resolve to be slower and not to rush from thing to thing this year. These resolutions often last about five days and then reality sets in (although I am determined this year to make them stick!). So for me this is a magical time of year. To me there is nothing more exciting than the promise of learning new things, nothing more exciting than the opportunity to discover a new idea, test a new skill, and make a new friend.

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At the same time, this time of transition can bring sadness. Where did the years go? How can they be this old? Where did the summer go, along with all my grand plans for how to spend it? What will they do without me all day…or maybe what will I do without them all day? But there is joy too…the crying stops (for both adults and children), the stories of the wonder of learning start to pile up, and we all become comfortable with the transition. We made it.

It’s a new year and a time of new beginnings. Savor every moment of learning with your child just like we do here at SEEC. Drown yourself in their questions and their wonder and start looking at the world through curious eyes again. It’s true that transitions can be tough, but they can also be filled with growth, wonder and joy. Savor every moment—the rough and the joyful— it is through transition that we grow.

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