My youngest is graduating from elementary school today; they're having a short ceremony for his class at 8:30 this morning. It's nothing fancy. There are no gowns, no mortar boards, no dressing up at all. Just the kids, mostly wearing shorts and tee-shirts, teachers and parents, and certificates of completion their teachers will hand them when their name is called.
As I was tossing and turning in bed through the wee hours of this morning – it's about 4:30 now – I realized I've had a child, or multiple children, in that school since 1998, when our oldest child started half-day kindergarten there. She wore a lavender dress, one with a purple flower print. Her backpack was pink plastic, featuring characters from the "Arthur" children's show. She had me do her hair in the "cute way," brushing back the top of her hair into a little pony tail she wore to the side. I can still see in my mind the photos I took of her standing on the front porch, a big, wide grin on her face.
Two years later, my middle child started kindergarten. He wasn't as thrilled about it as his sister. I worried I'd get a call to come get him. I'd already spent a nervous two years when he was in half-day preschool – the same excellent program his siblings attended – so I was no stranger to his anxieties. Fortunately, he was okay with kindergarten. It as wasn't much of a shock transitioning from half-day preschool.
And then, my youngest. He was a little nervous his first day, though probably not as much so as his mother. Like all my kids, he was sweet and quiet (outside the house …), but he adjusted to going to the "big school" okay. Plus, like his siblings, he had the benefit of knowing a few of the kids from preschool. And for that first year his older brother and sister were also there. That must have been a sort of comfort.
As our youngest, I'll admit I babied him most. Not that I haven't let him grow up, but he's gotten an awful lot of slack. When he was smaller he learned tilting his head to the side, leaning it on his shoulder, and begging me, "Pwease, pwease, pwease!" could get him just about anything. When his siblings want something very badly they still sometimes send him in as their ambassador, to plead their case. Their mama didn't raise any dummies.
It'll be strange leaving that school today. We have a lot of memories wrapped up in it, between homework battles, my daughter having her foot fractured on the playground, then later the months and months she spent on crutches, when doctor after doctor couldn't tell us what was wrong. So much worry and stress, and the school showed nothing but compassion. All the times I volunteered there, helping with holiday parties, grading papers, stapling things, drilling kids on math and listening to them read, helping with the art program – even if it meant juggling work hours … The shy smiles on my children's faces when they saw me there.
A lot happens in eleven years. That's a big chunk of a child's life. It's a big part of parents' lives, too.
So, no more obligatory class plays. No more parties. No more regular volunteering, either, since I'm not at home anymore and there aren't as many opportunities for parental involvement in middle school or high school. A whole, big part of parenting is officially over.
And, yes, a new era is already ongoing, since I have two more either in or already having passed through middle school, where my youngest will start in the fall. He's already nervous about it, reluctant to leave the smaller school he knows for the huge middle school, then the gigantic high school. I won't even think about that yet! It's a school with police guards, currently on lock-down to prevent end of school pranks. But that's another story.
All my kids, but my boys especially, are still those sweet, quiet kids I sent off to kindergarten. Bullies love to single out kids they can mow over. My middle son has certainly had his share of that. I worry about him every day I drop him off at school. Since he had problems on the bus, and this year didn't have his older sister riding with him, I've driven him every, single day, to minimize at least some of the harsh reality he's had to deal with. And next year, if they ask, I'll probably drive both boys. It's good quality time for us, a good time to get a feel for how they're doing.
Ah, but today. The last time I'll be in that gymnasium, on those incredibly uncomfortable chairs. The last time I'll see my son participate in anything related to elementary school. My little one won't be so little for much longer. And that may not fully hit me for a while, until I drive past the school, realizing I don't have a child there anymore.
All the beginnings and all the endings… Par for the course when you have children. Funny, but it seems you never quite get used to it. There'll always be that looking back at what was, memories of each child at each stage, all different but, in some ways, similar. Three children reared in the same house, by the same parents - rare enough these days – yet each his or her own person. Separate memories now, that will probably form into one, unspecific memory later. Good thing we have the photos and videos of them, each being him or her self. God knows we can't count on the accuracy of our own memories! If only I'd have had blogging from the start of their lives. Ah, well.
A bittersweet day. One of many to come. Almost time to reconcile myself to no longer having any "little" kids in the house anymore, no elementary students. If I choose to avoid that truth just a little bit longer, I doubt any parent could blame me.
Might as well make some coffee, as it's now nearly 6:00 a.m. There'll still be some quiet time, before my daughter heads off to her last day as a freshman in high school. Then the day will rush by, as they all do, before I know it. Each day that seemed so insignificant at the time now seems a lot more important.
Strange how that works, isn't it?