This is gonna be a long one. It’s going to be rambly, too.
So here we are. My son graduated from elementary school last night. WE graduated from elementary school last night. Yesterday was his celebration, today is mine. That’s right, I am celebrating all the shit that goes along with being a stay at home mom across four elementary schools, 2 states, four cities, 2 years in occupational therapy, one fizzled out fencing, robotics, band, and countless IEPs and playdates.
WE did it. The staff that was involved gets summer break, I get this post… and the pizza I am about to order. No shame here, just relief mixed with emotional overload. Some call it a breakdown, I call it the last Friday of the school year.
Added to the relief of school being over, he turned 12 last week. Twelve. Firmly into tweendom. Some fun quotes from the week:
him: “Mom, how old do I have to be to say bad words?”
me: “I’m 41 and still barely cuss in front of my mother. You figure it out.”
him: “Ok. So i’m almost 12, and that means I can say ‘ass’.”
me: “No. No it doesn’t.”
him: “Well, i’m gonna start saying it on Friday because it’s my birthday and i’ll be 12 and that is old enough, mom.”
When I was 15 I asked my oldest brother if I could start cussing…. since he was the one I learned most of the colorful vocabulary from, it seemed fitting. He punched me in the arm and said, “That’s for just thinking about it.” I decided to go a tad easier on my kid. .. still a “no”, though.
In the background my daughter has completed first grade with flying colors. I have to tell myself to recognize her effortless achievement because it is still valuable. She loves school and has blossomed with friends and work and teachers. It still matters and it is still work for her, it just doesn’t require a team of people. I sometimes need reminding of that.
When you have your babies, everyone loves to tell you to savor it. “Enjoy it, you have no idea how fast it goes.” “Relish this time with your baby, before long they will be in school.”
I used to say hopefully, “Really? Here’s hoping!” because babies are not easy…. the trick is, you don’t know how easy it is until they get older. I mean sure, the whole “keep them alive” thing is mega stressful when they are limp little meatloaves, but how interactive is their life? Not very. They sit where you put them, they poop and piss their diaper and it doesn’t even always require immediate clean up! Sure they suck your brain cells and sanity slowly on a nightly sleep-deprived basis, but you really aren’t expected to be a fully functioning human being before they reach three months. They don’t talk. They don’t argue with their siblings. They don’t even eat yet, so no dishes are involved! (except maybe for bottle duty which is sort of a pain)
New parents are fun to watch. .. once you’re on the other side, of course. It’s fun because they have no idea how easy the initiation really is compared to the rest of that kid’s life.
I used to think once I got them to school I could hand off a lot of the stress and work. Once they’re in school, surely a parent’s life gets easier, right?!!
No. Not for my first kid, anyway. School equaled lots and lots of work for me. It was a little work for him, which translated into a mountain of work for me.
We did this at four different schools. Getting to know layouts, teachers, teams, administrators, parents, schedules, cafeteria standards, holiday breaks, new friends. My son has started over four times and he’s just now graduating from elementary school.
When you ask him, of course he’s ready to leave for middle school. The first thing he will tell you, though, is that he is going to miss having a recess and he is dreading, absolutely dreading math. He’s not half bad at it, either, that’s the kicker!
So here I sit and sigh looking back over the last 12 years of life with my oldest. I try not to look too far into the future, because that’s where panic lives. My son, while waiting for an Amazon package containing the choice of some very valuable gift cards, said “Mom, ‘now’ is the least amount of time we have. You can’t spend all your time looking in the past because there’s nothing to be done about it. You can’t spend all your time waiting for what’s coming because then it’s here and that’s all you have. Now is really important and we shouldn’t waste it.”
(I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that was the jist)
With those words, I try to value each tuck in at bedtime with him because what 14 year old wants his mom to tuck him in? Sure we’ll hopefully continue to have deep and meaningful conversations, but soon those will involve friend drama and – dare I say – girls (blech) but right now it’s just about the end of school, his best friend moving away at the end of the summer, his favorite new song, and minutiae of individual days. I know that I will blink and he’ll be in high school stressing about finals and dances. And I’ll be stressed out about texting and driving and drugs and sex. But that is for another day. Today I want to enjoy his face when he gets off the bus with his little sister for almost the last time as they will no longer ever be at the same school at the same time. My babies are both growing up, but that doesn’t mean I’m getting older, right?!
I’m doing my best to look forward to summer. His summer before junior high. My daughter’s summer before second grade. My summer before (hopefully) going back to work. This time is precious with them as I fully know there are lots of parents who don’t have the option for it. …. and who also hopefully know how much work it is for us who stay home in the tornado.