As if I weren't crazy enough navigating the ups and downs of life with five children, now the oldest one insists on going to high school. And a real at that. She rudely declined my generous offer to home school her with an eye roll, a sigh, and an "oh, mom, would please be serious." It is a well confirmed fact that she is more mature than I am. Did you ever see the show family ties? Well, let's just say she is Alex P. Keaton, and I a mixture of Elise (Meredith Baxter Birney's character) and Mallory (the dim witted sister, played by Justine Bateman).
"It'll be fun. I"ll teach you all the really important things in life- like how to do laundry, wash dishes, change diapers, and clean a house."
"I already know how to do those things."
"Yes, you know how to do them, but at home school, you would actually do them."
Another eye roll, sigh, and exasperated MOOOOOOOOOOM.
You parents of cute little babies, toddlers, even my friends with middle schoolers, you don't know what you are in for... remember the scene in Jaws...the opening scene where the drunk girl goes out for a fun night time swim, only to tire and lay on a buoy for a short rest. Her head, spinning from her obvious buzz, she is comforted by the large buoyant object-the only thing that she can lean on in the vast, open ocean. Unfortunately, she can only take a brief breath before an angry, great white shark attacks her, drags her under the ocean, and eats her.
This is the best comparison of what it felt like to take my daughter to high school.
I remember her first day of school. She was about 14 months old. No, she is not that much of a genius, when I say school, I actually mean day care, but for my purposes, the two are equivalent. This was the first institution to which I surrender her. That first day, I dressed her in this little yellow duck outfit. It was one of those long, wide tops that criss cross in the back and fasten with one large button. Not quite a shirt, and not quite a dress, it came as a set with little bloomers, which covered her diaper. I can still remember how it was trimmed in white ric rac, and how moved my fingers back on forth over that trim as I held her in those final seconds before I handed her over to the teacher. I ran down the hall as I heard her start to scream. I headed towards my car crying. It would not be the last time that I left her there and left in tears, but of course, things did get better. She really connected with her teacher, which is a nice, non obnoxious way of saying that she was the teacher's favorite. In most cases I shun nepotism, but when I left my fourteen month old baby in the care of complete strangers, some how justice for all became a lot less important to me than my own child's happiness.
She made it through day care and by age three, she moved on to nursery school. She was a "farm friend", and she loved it and flourished in this program. She still drank from a bottle, which I covertly snuck her every afternoon when I picked her up from school. She would be so tired that I'd have to carry her into the house, where she would watch the video, BARNEY GOES TO SCHOOL every afternoon before she took a nap. I would sing along because I developed a sort of barney related schizophrenia wherein I heard his voice in my head singing these songs ALL DAY LONG.
When we moved back to my home town from the south, my daughter started first grade at the same elementary school that I went to as a child. The school starts at age three, so as a first grader, she was the "New Kid", which is not always easy to be. I still remember the sleepover a girl in her class had. In a very small school, a mother who clearly wasn't thinking, or was thinking something she should have been, decided to allow her daughter to invite half of the girls to her birthday sleepover. It was on a Friday night. At the end of the school day, the mom picked up all the invited guests from school. My daughter watched most of her friends tote their sleeping bags and their overnight kits down the hallway before they merrily boarded this mom's minivan. Naturally, she was upset.
That night, I realized that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to make it better, and that while compared to the possible disappointments she could have been suffering at that very moment, that disappointment was extremely minor, her little self could not understand that; or if she could, she did care. It was the biggest thing in her life. For the moment. Which, of course was fleeting, but seemed eternal for at least twenty four hours.
In June, my daughter "graduated" from this school with more good memories than bad. Ready to move on and yet sad to leave. I was thankful for the summer, high school was still three months away.
Three months, however, passed quickly. Trips here and there and everywhere coupled with the day to day maintenance of the house, the children, and our Olympic hopeful cat made the time fly faster than ever. I wonder if each year will get progressively shorter as I get progressively older. Actually, I don't wonder, I know; but I like to pretend that I wonder, and that maybe I am wrong, and time will eventually slow down.
Yesterday was orientation. We took her to the high school that she chose. This was a departure from how I was raised. My parents told me in no uncertain terms that I would go to an all girls catholic academy, and I did go, kicking and screaming all the way. I made friends and had fun along the way, but I didn't think then and I still don't think now that it was the right fit for me. Who knows though? I don't look back and judge.
Anyway, off she went this morning, in a skirt not much longer than the bloomer combination she wore to her first day of daycare. There were no tears today. I dropped her off close enough so that she wouldn't have to walk too far, but far enough away so that I couldn't be seen. Imagine the embarrassment. Cell phone in one hand, my lip gloss (which I confiscated) in the other, she leaned into the door. "I'll call you when I need a ride",
And all that was left to say was, "I'll be there..."