My daughter graduated elementary school. Yes, Susan, she did (maybe if I see it in print it will start to sink in).
So, as I often love to do when exploring a big feeling I’m having about a moment in life I have yet been able to put words to, I decided to look up the word elementary in the dictionary.
Nothing can prepare you for being a parent really. No book, no class, no shrink. Sure, you can have the right stroller, breast pump, car seat, and on and on, but how can you prepare for the heart and mind and body to feel as though it’s living now outside of you in the body of a child that has your smile, his nose, grandpa’s eyes, grandma’s hair and some higher being’s spirit?
How can you know you’ll be a single mom? How can you know she’ll fall off a chair and have her first emergency room visit? How can you know she’ll fall in love with art?
No, you can’t prepare, you simply must be present and take the next indicated step toward being the healthiest parent possible for this little person depending on you.
And then… they begin school. And teachers enter their lives. And you hope they see your child — truly see them.
And you watch them come home from school having learned to write the alphabet. And the alphabet turns into words. And the words turn into sentences. And the sentences turn into stories and poems and mother’s day cards and father’s day letters and you have a teacher to thank.
And friends arrive and friends leave and on their own they discover chemistry and connection, “I like her, mama, can we have a play date?”
And you find you like the friend too, and the parents, and the siblings. New people are now in your life. People you care about and who care about your child.
Threads to a blanket and the blanket is my child.
She comes home with math I can’t understand and history I forgot about and books I remember reading. And she teaches me as much as I help teach her.
Legs get longer, feet get bigger, teeth fall out and grow in.
And through it all are the teachers. Teachers who put their own lives aside to help ours. Who stay after school to talk even when they have their own children to go home to. Teachers who throw ice-cream parties and plan field trips. Teachers who let you call them, email them. Teachers who listen, laugh, and even cry.
Teachers who are with your child all day. Sewing designs on the blanket.
My daughter cried the night before graduation. Cried hard. She cried because she loved her elementary school experience. Loved each year, each teacher, each challenge, each celebration.
School has been her other family. One with many parents and many siblings. As parents we spend time volunteering, having quick chats in the parking lot, swapping hugs at school events and waving from the carpool lane but for our children… that is their other home. Hours and hours and days and years spent together.
Yes, my girl, cry. Grieve. It is something to feel. And I will hold you and tell you that I’m so grateful for your elementary school experience. How proud I am of all that you’ve done — every project, speech, show, paper, test, drawing, marathon, bake sale, costume, recital, struggle, giggle, raised hand and kind word.
No, you can’t prepare for that… you can only be present.
Elementary; adj.1. Of, relating to, or constituting the basic, essential, or fundamental part: an elementary need for love and nurturing.
An elementary need for love and nurturing… I don’t think we ever graduate from that.