We are barreling towards the end of the school year, and with it, the end of elementary school. When I flipped the calendar over to May last week, I thought back to a moment one month into the school year back in October. I was talking to someone in the front office, and I commented that my stomach clenched as I turned the calendar to the second month of school. “Soon it will be winter break, and then spring break, and then we’ll come back to school and race towards graduation.”
I was right.
It went by so quickly.
I don’t feel like I blinked and I missed it. It’s more that I feel like I started off dessert with a big bowl of ice cream and the knowledge that once the ice cream was consumed, it was gone. And now I’m scraping the melted ice cream drops off the bottom of the bowl and wistfully wishing I had more ice cream.
I am so lucky that I got to have these years, but that knowledge doesn’t really make the fact that the ChickieNob is almost my height and it’s really hard to brush her hair any less bittersweet. Or that when the Wolvog jumps on my back that he does so ironically — a preteen’s “isn’t this so funny?” moment rather than a little kid not wanting to walk.
Every other level of school will happen at shorter intervals. Middle school, 3 years. High school, 4 years. College, 4 years. But for the last 6 years, they were in one, cozy cocoon. Sure, the kids there were kids, which means the kids were sometimes mean. (Let’s not sugarcoat this and pretend it was an elementary school of cherubic, perfect children.) But with such a small and young group, the expectations were woven tightly around them, both protecting them and stifling them. Next year is the next stage, where the community grows and the rules soften, and you wonder whether you’ve prepared them.
Have you prepared them for the truly cruel moments? The huge disappointments? The failures? Have you prepared them to make good choices that balance rather than overwhelm their schedule? To try new things? To learn from mistakes? Have you taught them how to be a good friend? How to reach out to someone in need? How to get past their personal imposter syndrome and own what they know and what they can do?
My ability to deeply influence the way they see the world is coming to an end. The opinions of their peers will start to trump the opinions of their parents. Their need to fit in will trump following the beat of their own drummer. I can only hope that we made our messages loud enough that they drown out the bad ideas and self-esteem crushers.
I love them. In a way that they will never understand because I don’t think we can ever fathom how our parents feel about us, and, frankly, no matter how well you can play with words, I don’t think these types of feelings can be contained with consonants. But I hope that I’ve conveyed this message to them; that it has burrowed underneath the skin, sunk into their blood and bones. I love them, and I hope that they carry that love with them as they navigate the world, as they take another step toward coming into their own.
It’s selfish, I know, piggish after getting 6 years of elementary school. But I want more.