If things go the way they should, then May 2014 will be a major milestone for me. Well, that’s sort of selfish. It will be a major milestone for my youngest. It’s when she’s scheduled to graduate high school.
But if we can look past the selfishness for just a moment, we can grant Granny here some attention, too. When my youngest graduates it will not only mark a beginning for her, but also an end for me.
It will be the end of twenty-two years that I’ve been the parent of a school-age child.
My oldest just became one. Her little girl started Kindergarten this year. And even though school has only been in session for three weeks, she’s already fought, and won, her second battle with the school board. She lost the first one.
I view her accomplishment with mixed emotions. Pride that she succeeded so early, jealousy that I never had a major win against the school board in twenty-two years, and dread that she’s only just begun. She will probably have many more battles with the school system. Sometimes she will lose.
And she has at least twelve of those years in front of her still.
Pride, jealousy, and dread are the perfect trifecta. It sort of sums up how I felt on my eldest’s first day of Kindergarten. I knew what she would face as the years rolled by. She was naively anxious to simply get started, meet her teacher, and make new friends.
In turn, my children each enjoyed and survived the fun and play of grade school, the homework and peer pressures of middle school, and the fashion and drama of high school.
Most parents experience this with their children in some sort of stair-step, and gradual, climb toward adulthood. Depending on the number of children they’ve raised, they usually have them all graduate within a couple of years of each other, pushing them one by one, yet still as a group, through all the levels of education, graduation, employment, and then out into the big bad world to fend for themselves.
Learning letters, math, social studies and science; the cruelty of innocent little children; supervising homework, playtime, bad teachers; an excellent teacher, a bad principal, braces, and boys; fretting over first dates, last dates, and learning to drive. Good friends, bad influences, alcohol and drugs.
I have already gone through all these things once. My oldest was about to hit high school when my youngest first entered grade school. Eight years after the first began her journey, the other one started hers.
I tell people that I had an only child — twice.
The proofs for her senior pictures came in today. It hit me then that it was almost over. It was the first time I cried with full and final acknowledgment that she’s all grown up now.
And that it’s almost over.
My youngest was the harder of the two to raise. That she is even attending her senior year of high school is a major accomplishment on both our parts. And those pictures will forever serve as evidence of the struggle to get her here – the struggles that got her this far.
But I can’t rest yet. She still has another eight full months to go. I still have another eight full months to go.
Then and only then will I be able to look back over the last twenty-two years with pride in my accomplishment.
I mean THEIR accomplishments.
Maybe, like childbirth, I’ll forget the worst of it. Hopefully, I will retain the memories of the best of it.
But mostly I’ll just be glad it’s over.