A Bittersweet Passage

This week, my daughter finished her elementary education, and it has reminded me that our children are really God’s children on loan. Starting out in the womb, every milestone is a step further away from us and closer to their independence. We carry them in our wombs and then give birth; we are separated. They are weaned; we are a little more separated. They begin to crawl, walk, and eventually run, all gradually increased stages of separation. I think with each of these stages come bittersweet sentiments that another chapter in their lives has passed and is written in the history books. We breathe a sigh of relief to see some of these stages end: the early days when they don’t sleep through the night, teething and drooling, the Terrible Twos, the days before they learn to swim when we can’t feel relaxed when they are around water. Other stages, we hate to see come to an end: reading them bedtime stories, holding their hands, girly dresses with ruffles and bows in their hair, T- ball and Tonka trucks.

I am very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, so I kept Grace at home with me until one year before she went to kindergarten. Many times, I second-guessed myself because I didn’t put her into pre-K3 or pre-K4 because all the other moms were doing it. Would she be behind academically? Socially? It seems like just yesterday that I was shopping for her first pair of sweet little Mary Jane shoes and lace-trimmed socks for her to wear to school. I remember people asking me If I was going to cry on her first day. I said, “Really??? It’s a preschool! She is only going to be in school for two hours a day, three days a week! How ridiculous!” The big day came, and we were so excited! I walked her into her class room, and we were both grinning from ear to ear! We found her cubby hole where she placed her pink canvas tote embroidered with GRACE on the front. She turned to me, I leaned down, and she squeezed my neck as only she can do, saying, “Bye-bye, Mommy.” That was all she wrote! She bounced off, smiling, looking forward to her new adventure. I, on the other hand, blindly rushed to my car so I wouldn’t publicly fall apart. Who knew? It still brings me to tears as I think about it now.

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The next year, she started kindergarten. Again, people asked me if I would cry on the first day. “No way! It is only half-day kindergarten! Plus, I got that out of my system last year.” On her first day of school, I parked the car and walked her to her room. Her lovely, smiling teacher greeted us by the door. We went in to find her desk (she was so excited to have her first desk) and her cubby hole. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and walked out the door. Whew, that wasn’t so hard! Her teacher handed me an envelope that had a letter inside. SOOOO…..I opened it. It should have come with a warning! It read something like this:

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Again, I blindly raced my car to my car, and eventually, and thankfully, collected myself in the solitude. Thank the Lord for tinted windows! Now that I am entering the much dreaded menopausal state of my life, I have noticed that tears seem to hang out right behind my eyeballs, waiting anxiously to betray me without notice.

Last week, we attended my daughter’s Pathway celebration when the school commemorates the fourth-grade passage from Elementary School to Middle School. The Elementary School principal tearfully gave a tribute. My daughter kept looking at me for signs of any waterworks. I was really proud of myself to keep my composure. Regardless, I had the Kleenex at the ready. Each of the children’s names were announced, then they would hug Principal Past, walk under the archway adorned with green and purple balloons, continue toward the Middle School, and shake the hand of Principal Future. We ended the ceremony in the Middle School cafeteria where the kids enjoyed an ice cream social. This is a stage to which I am sad to say goodbye.

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One of my favorite things about the elementary school was testing children
on their Bible Memory Verses. Hearing God’s words in a child’s voice is beyond precious. Every Friday the children in Pre-K3 thru 4th grades would gather for chapel. Sitting behind 400 children not only singing songs about Jesus, but doing it in sign language as well was, more often than not, too much for this bladder-eyes to take. There weren’t many chapels that I sat through that didn’t require a Kleenex. I remember one chapel in particular, when the kids were singing and signing The Revelation Song (tears) before the showing of a video of a football team being taught a life lesson (more tears). I looked at the lady sitting next to me, and she also had tears streaming down her face. I gave her a Kleenex from my purse and asked, “What’s next….Brian’s Song???”

Gone are the days of the backwards 3s, 5s, and Es. No more new boxes of crayons to open up and deeply smell( I love that sweet fragrance…it reminds me of innocence and being a little girl). Left behind are the happy little smiley faces and “WOW!”s on her worksheets. Time to break out the scraper to peel off the old, stubborn tape remnants that were used to proudly display her sweet handprint art (turkeys, Christmas angels, and shamrocks) on the refrigerator doors.

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Now, we are off to Middle School. Hello, hormonally-driven mood swings, braces, and pimples! Here comes the girl drama, not to be outdone, I am sure, by the boy drama! It’s time to steel myself for the plethora of adolescent issues that will have to be addressed so I don’t go completely insane! I just hope there’s enough Chardonnay to get me through it!

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