Are We There Yet: Growing pains - for Mom
It’s Tuesday, so this must be field-trip day.
Or maybe the eighth-grade promotion ceremony? Band Awards night? Fifth-grade bonfire?
The end-of-the-year calendar has us lurching from one event to another, praying we don’t miss some significant milestones in our children’s lives. My friend and I pledged to remind each other of the weekly events so we don’t drop the ball (or several).
We keep thinking, “If we can just make it through the next few weeks...”
But then we stop. Because then it will be over. Not just the school year, but a huge chapter in our lives.
Our sons are moving from middle school to high school this year, and our daughters are completing fifth grade — their last year at our favorite elementary school, South Side.
For me, it’s the end of an era.
This school is a block from our house. It’s the place, years ago, I hoped my children could attend one day because I interviewed so many great teachers there.
It’s where my kids played long before they reached kindergarten — sitting on the turtles, hanging from the bars, running across the bridges as I held a nervous hand nearby, learning how to navigate the swinging steps that they now scramble over with ease.
Where my son would climb onto the wooden truck, “drive” us to an imaginary McDonald’s, run over to the flagpole area and ask me what food and Star Wars toy I wanted.
Where we watched them march into kindergarten that first day, holding back (sort of) our tears of pride and apprehension, peeking into the ground-floor windows just to make sure they had found a friend.
Where we crammed into the gym to watch musical performances that taught them so much about the world. Where we attended wax museums and authors nights and art exhibits that made us swell with pride (or sometimes giggle - those self-portraits!).
Where we volunteered for Field Day, classroom tutoring and teacher breakfasts. Where we brought fruit and pretzels and cupcakes and invented goofy games for classroom parties.
Where caring teachers bent over backward to help my kids in good times and bad — and help me finish the #&%$#!@ yearbook.
Where we bravely boarded buses for field trips, counting heads to make sure we didn’t have to call a parent and say, “I lost your child in Chicago.”
Where we went to Fine Arts Night and Reading Night and Fun Night and countless other nights, taking photos and mingling with happy kids and families enjoying the best years of parenthood.
How can I possibly leave these memories behind?
The other day, I walked my daughter to school and heard music coming from the cafegymatorium. I remembered my son’s middle school jazz band was playing at the school that day to drum up interest in band.
I almost left, but it hit me on the stairs: This could be the last performance I watch in that gym.
I turned back to listen, just for a bit. I ended up staying the whole hour.
Hearing him play one of his last concerts with this band (now at their peak at the end of the year), seeing my daughter clap with pride, watching her friends mouth to her, “That’s your brother!” — my heart just filled.
These transitions are bittersweet. I’m excited about high school. My son navigated middle school well, and he’s ready. Plus, it’s not quite as emotional at that level (I usually get the small hello from him if we’re within 100 yards of the school).
Through him, my daughter is already familiar with the middle school routine. They’ll both be fine.
Me, I’m not so sure. I’m just hoping not to cry my way through the promotion ceremonies.
My friend tried to put it into perspective after practically weeping over the old photos she was gathering for a fifth-grade memories project.
We want to freeze these years, keep them young and sweet and ours forever. But that’s not realistic, and it’s not our job.
Our job is to help create a good person and send them off into the world to make more memories, even long after we’re gone.
My goal now is just to make it to most of them. Time is passing, and the older I get, the more urgency I feel. I want to be there.
As we climb the hill to school these precious last few days, still running to catch the line before the students go inside, I will remind myself of that.
And years from now, when I can still hear the morning bells and announcements from our house, I’ll remember these days.
Now where’s the #&%$#!@ Kleenex?
Julie Wurth writes about kids and famlilies and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 351-5226, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jawurth.