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.