An Ending and a Beginning
It seems that I’m beginning to start all my blogs the same way I start letters or emails to friends: “Sorry that I’ve taken so long to write, I’ve been busy…,” or some version of that phrase.
The truth is, I have been busy. My feelings have busy bouncing from one extreme to the other as I’ve prepared for my youngest daughter Mary to graduate from high school. High school graduation is kind of the culmination of all those small steps throughout childhood, and each thing during Mary’s senior year brought back memories of those steps. Homecoming assembly, dances, homework and more homework, IB and AP tests, senior assembly…they were all an ending and a beginning.
As I was throwing stuff into a scrapbook last week (I wish I were the scrapbooking type, but I’m the put it in a box in the closet type), I ran across something Miss Patty (Banes) had the kids do in her 4-year-old class. On their birthday, the preschoolers got to “write” a Book About Me. The front cover had a school photo (my kids couldn’t believe I had Mary wear THAT dress!), and inside Miss Patty filled out answers to questions like “What is your favorite food?” Mary said grapes, chicken nuggets and ice cream cones. (My kids were in middle school before they realized that chickens had bones.)
The book also contained her favorite color, an outline of her little hand, her height and weight and the color of her hair and eyes. At the end, she drew a picture of herself. Thank you for doing that, Miss Patty. We had fun looking at it.
On the first day of kindergarten at Eisenhower Elementary, the PTA hosted donuts and coffee in the cafeteria for the kindergarten parents — mostly to keep them from hovering around the classroom door. There were many tears (from the adults) that day. I remember feeling lost, as if an appendage were missing. I was so accustomed to having a little person around me most of the time that I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had forgotten something (or someone).
Fortunately, going through middle school with my other two children made it less scary with Mary. Middle school is a time when you really have to let go the most and trust that you have done your best as a parent so far. There are also a lot of urban legends and frightening stories passed around among parents about middle school. I heard comments like “All the middle schools are terrible.” “You MUST send your child to private school during middle school.” “You’ll never see your kids once they start middle school.” It was as if middle school were some black hole that kids fell into never to be heard from again. I didn’t quite understand how the same great kids I knew in elementary school could go to middle school and suddenly turn it into a terrible school. I’ve found that the middle school fear mongers are usually just afraid. And maybe they have a right to be. The truth is, you don’t have as much control in middle school, but isn’t that part of the point of parenting? We do have to slowly let go and allow our kids to make their own decisions and mistakes.
Middle school was fairly uneventful for Mary (at least from my perspective); then there was 9th grade. I went to the first parent teacher conferences – or what I like to refer to as “finding out what’s REALLY going on” – and found myself saying more than once, “Are you sure you have the right kid? Mary Casey? She’s not turning in homework?” Let’s just say that 9th grade was a transitional year and a learning experience. Once kids get into high school, they have to decide where and what they’re going to be. Fortunately, Mary came down on the right side of that decision and went on to have a successful academic experience. Thanks, teachers at Booker T! And I also have to give a shout-out to Mary’s friends and friends’ parents. Love you all. OK, I’ll say it – it takes a village.
If you’ve managed to stay with me and read to the end of this, I thank you for your indulgence. As the editor of this magazine, I’ve shared so many milestones with you over the years. Mary was 3 years old when I started working here, and now she’s about to go to college. I can’t wait to see what new milestones lie ahead for her. Even though I know you don’t read my blog, congratulations and I love you.