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Middle School

How did I end up on a folding chair in a middle school gymnasium, listening to their next principal tell me about the world the twins will inhabit next year?

No, I mean, really.  I remember them entering Kindergarten.  How can I forget?  I spent a few days sitting parked outside the school, reading a book, because I was too worried to be a few blocks away.  (I clearly take anxiety to a whole new level for you, don’t I?)  I remember circle time and cutting out yellow construction paper squares and the dazed look on their face during their class Valentine’s Day concert.

And then life sort of jumps to now.  My brain rationally knows that I’ve lived five years in between those moments and now, but it’s hard to sort it all out in my mind.  If you ask me to think about third grade, I can remember the night they found out their teacher assignment or how much the ChickieNob adored her teacher’s shoe collection or the Wolvog bringing home a worksheet on tetrahedral numbers or that special teacher bringing out their inner writer.

I can remember each of these individual moments if I concentrate on them.  But overall, it feels like elementary school went by in the time it took me to walk from the front door of the school back to my car.

And I am so sad that it is almost over.

Unlike a lot of other parents, I have never dreaded this age.  I taught middle school for many years, and I enjoy kids in this segment of life.  What can I say: I like talking about feelings, and middle schoolers have a lot of feelings to discuss and dissect.  Of course I’m worried about peer pressure and anonymous texting apps and general preteen cruelty.  But I’m not dreading living in a house with two middle schoolers.

But sitting in that gymnasium, I felt old.  I felt like I was on a roller coaster, barreling towards the end of the ride, and all I could think about was how long I waited in line to enjoy this two-minute amusement park attraction and how it was ending so quickly.  Yes, yes, yes, I know the end is not really the end.  I still hang out with my parents and enjoy their company.  But things will change the moment they leave home for college.

We’ve been building towards this: the moment we release them out into the world and say, “do your thing.”

I want that to happen.  I want them to be happy and healthy and find their way in the world.  I want them to go off and do cool things and then report back about those accomplishments.  I have put all of this hard work in raising them for that to specifically happen.

But I don’t want this moment to end.  Each time they pass through one set of doors and walk through another, we are one step closer to that moment when I will need to tell them that I agree with them; they’re ready.  Because I am well aware that they will tell me they are ready much earlier than I am prepared to let them go.

Before my wedding, someone told me to make sure that we took a moment to step away from the party and consciously observe it.  To stand together and mindfully think, “We are at our wedding and look at all these people gathered together in a room to celebrate with us.”  If you don’t do that, the whole day can be over and you’ll realize that you barely took it in because it’s so enormous.

I do this a lot with school.  I take two minutes to step back in the room and observe the twins in action.  I will say to myself, “I am at their last Valentine’s Day class party.  Look at how much fun they are having and how we were all in this moment.”  And then I step back into the action and let it pass over me knowing I grabbed my mental snapshot.

And it’s not enough.

It wasn’t enough at my wedding to make me not crave more time in the festivities, and it isn’t enough now to make me feel full of their childhood.  And it really sucks that it’s the best a person can do — take a mental snapshot — and not get to return to a moment over and over again, trying to soak it all in.

18 comments

1 Charlotte { 02.17.16 at 8:14 am }

Gah! Mel, this post totally got to me, like seriously tore at my heart. Everything you are saying…I KNOW. Oh do I know. It goes so fast and it is SO hard.
I tend to not think about how each new step is one closer to them leaving and rather choose to live each moment. Otherwise it is too sad for me and I end up an emotional wreck who can’t function. So I don’t think about the eventual, because everything is.
One thing I will say is that these years coming up are some of the very hardest as a parent. It is so easy when they are younger, because most problems have easy solutions, and in general they are most receptive to help. When things are broke, you know how to fix them. The middle school and teenage years throw everything you think you know out the window. I would take a hundred newborns over the teenage drama any day! But then one day I would have a hundred teenagers and no one wants that!

2 Jodi { 02.17.16 at 9:14 am }

I am the polar opposite of you in a lot of ways. I am not a crier. I am not a person who wants to talk about feelings to no end. I have not looked at each parenting moment in time and thought about it and dreaded it and held it in my hand. I did not have any problems with kindergarten except that my child’s teacher was a disaster. BUT, I am finding this sending him off to middle school to be exponentially harder than anything else. Maybe it is because for the first time he is going on a bus? (We walk to school.) I have no idea. But for some reason this feels like the beginning of the end of everything else.

3 illustr8d { 02.17.16 at 9:42 am }

Aw, Mel. Have a hug. 🙂

And thank you for this:
Before my wedding, someone told me to make sure that we took a moment to step away from the party and consciously observe it. To stand together and mindfully think, “We are at our wedding and look at all these people gathered together in a room to celebrate with us.” If you don’t do that, the whole day can be over and you’ll realize that you barely took it in because it’s so enormous.

4 Alli { 02.17.16 at 10:20 am }

Hello there! I’m a longtime follower of you blog but don’t think I’ve ever left a comment before. I too am on the roller coaster barreling towards middle school. My two “babies” were adopted from Kazakhstan and while not offically twins their birthday’s are only 8 days apart. I’m on the yearbook staff at their elementary school and have been tasked with collecting baby photos of the 5th graders. I have had many conversations with other parents who’s feelings are similar to yours (and mine). “How is it possible for the time to have gone so fast?”. Thank goodness (and much to my kiddies chagrin) I’ve take thousands of photos and hours of video!! We have been striving all these years help them prepare to face the world on their own. I know they are ready to move on. It’s evident by the increasing level of embarrassment I cause them! I guess I’ll just have to get with the program. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone 🙂

5 TasIVFer { 02.17.16 at 11:17 am }

“I felt like I was on a roller coaster, barreling towards the end of the ride, and all I could think about was how long I waited in line to enjoy this two-minute amusement park attraction and how it was ending so quickly.” A million times this.

6 Liz Self { 02.17.16 at 12:06 pm }

This. So this. And I see I’m not the first one either. And my oldest kid is only 7. But yes this.
I felt like I was on a roller coaster, barreling towards the end of the ride, and all I could think about was how long I waited in line to enjoy this two-minute amusement park attraction and how it was ending so quickly. Yes, yes, yes, I know the end is not really the end. I still hang out with my parents and enjoy their company. But things will change the moment they leave home for college.”

7 Ana { 02.17.16 at 1:22 pm }

oh man, bringing on the mid-day tears. This is so perfect, and I get it…all of it. Hugs.

8 Peg { 02.17.16 at 1:30 pm }

I feel you on this one. With one about to leave middle school and two firmly in high school as sophomores, the world is whizzing by. I often say “thank goodness for Liam (age 8) keeping us young” but he’s growing up too!! I love the teenagers dearly and I actually like hanging out with them on most days. I do miss their “littleness.” including their books, toys, and games. L doesn’t like me to read outloud to him anymore…sigh…

lovely post as usual.

9 Jess { 02.17.16 at 2:57 pm }

The idea of this gradual release of your children is so foreign to me at this point in my life, when we are trying to make a tiny person appear in our lives and won’t hit this space for quite some time, but the way you wrote about it made me feel so sad. That every moment needs to be saved in a mental snapshot to remember that time, but that every moment is so fleeting and will never happen again. I loved this part:
“But I don’t want this moment to end. Each time they pass through one set of doors and walk through another, we are one step closer to that moment when I will need to tell them that I agree with them; they’re ready. Because I am well aware that they will tell me they are ready much earlier than I am prepared to let them go.”

Just the image of the many sets of doors and that the greatest accomplishment as a parent is to create wonderful people who go through those doors and do wonderful things, who fly off to whatever is out there for them but are prepared because of all those Valentine’s Day parties and homework conversations and weekend science projects and family read-alouds.

10 Valery Valentina { 02.17.16 at 3:51 pm }

Lovely.
although the way you started I thought it was a bad memory of you folded up in a folding chair in middle school.

11 Cristy { 02.17.16 at 7:50 pm }

I’ve begun experiencing this. Watching them grow from babies to toddlers has been hard enough. I can only imagine middle school.

So many will rationalize these feelings as fleeting and that you should get over them. But in your case, your firsts are also coupled with you lasts. Excitement and grief mixed into one.

Thinking of you. May this transition be easy on your heart.

12 Catwoman73 { 02.18.16 at 8:31 am }

Hugs Mel- I don’t think there’s a parent out there who doesn’t feel this way as milestones come to pass. Raising children is so bittersweet.

13 Katherine A { 02.18.16 at 9:00 am }

I feel like I’m getting a glimpse into my future here…and can relate to the feeling by what has already passed. There’s this sense in which I wish I could go back and revisit certain moments because the mental snapshot is just not, like you say, enough. I’m actually getting teary here, so I’ll bring this to a close by saying thank you for the reminder and how beautifully you captured this moment.

14 Delenn { 02.18.16 at 10:23 am }

You made me cry at work. Damn you. 🙂

Unsurprisingly, I feel the same way you do about parenting…the whole point is to get them to a point where they are grown up and independent…but yet…damn, it sucks sometimes! Michael is an 11th grader…next year is his senior year in high school and while his path is going to be a bit different because of his Aspergers–he will actually be transitioning to (slowly) to COLLEGE…no way….no way. 🙂

15 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.18.16 at 4:07 pm }

I think this is why I started a journal in high school, that I continue to write in every night even now. I wanted to capture these moments, to have a way to come back to them and never lose them. To say, “see I was here” — even if I can’t conjure all the details. It’s a meager effort, but my root fear of losing the moments is the same.

16 Mali { 02.18.16 at 7:23 pm }

I think this is the case with a lot of things. Mindfulness helps us remember, and really appreciate our memories.

I’m also so pleased that (of course) you recognise that your job in the world is to send the twins out into it, happy and confident and responsible and kind. My parents were like that (though not all are), and I am so thankful for the way they were proud of us becoming independent adults. It made me more willing to spend time with them, not less. Yet those who try to clutch their children tightly only create resentment in later years, in my observations, and end up pushing their children away.

17 Elizabeth { 02.19.16 at 2:10 pm }

I totally get this. Had that moment this morning, looking at their beautiful faces, conscious of inhabiting the moment and enjoying the sparkle in Oz’s eyes and the thoughtful smile on Illyria’s face, and feeling so completely that enjoying and being in the moment just wasn’t – isn’t – enough. It is so SO fleeting.

18 Tiara { 03.02.16 at 9:21 am }

I recently volunteered in my daughters JK class for the first time. I was so excited to do so…to get to meet the other kids in her class & put faces to the personalities she’s always talking about. Afterward, when I was leaving the school, I started crying because I’d allowed myself to get so wrapped up in my task that I’d missed just observing & seeing it all! I didn’t take the moment to watch Elena interacting with her classmates & her teachers & that is what I so wanted to see.

I have taken more time to journal lately. To write about the mundane so I have that to look back on & read when this time has passed.

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