The finality of it all
It’s finals week around here.
It’s my last winter finals week. And I actually forgot about it, until Singer Girl asked if I could drive her to school the other day.
I remember my first finals week as a parent. I totally screwed up. Our school does a weird schedule, with two finals each day, for three days. The first two days they do prep, then break, test, lunch, test. Day is regular length, but a lot of kids don’t go in until the first final starts. On day three, however, they ditch that prep period and the first test is right away at 8 am. This leaves that third section for any makeup tests that someone might’ve missed. Ya follow? Yeah, see I didn’t. On day 3 hauled Sailor Boy, then a gawky, geeky 14 year old, to school AFTER his first final of the day was over. Ooops (yes, I know it was ultimately his responsibility. Whatever).
From then on when that schedule was released, for the past 7 years, I have entered into our family calendar. But I didn’t this year. I am in the senior slump I guess.
Last year there was no slumping or slouching — it was hold your breath grit your teeth and get through the war zone that is junior year. Now we are all chill. Singer girl has electives in her schedule for the first time ever — and even has an open hour. Yeah, she’s still doing 3 AP classes, but she never seems to have any homework. She stresses more about helping Drummer Boy get through his junior year as unscathed as possible. Turns out she likes to help organize. Wherever did she get that from? Lol…one night she came home, and revealed to me with horror that Drummer Boy had no binders or folders or a planner. That his backpack was a veritable wasteland of hastily thrust-in papers : “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/Out of this stony rubbish?” (Sorry, Mr Eliot…)
When she saw calculus commingling with chemistry, English and Spanish battling for supremacy like in the days of the Tudors, she marched his disorganized life to Office Max and negotiated a peace treaty. It seems she is using her junior year horrors as a cautionary tale. While I admire her altruism, I do have to remind her periodically that she has college auditions on the horizon and perhaps she should focus on those? “It’s fine, Mom,” she snaps. This one rarely lowers herself for assistance. But every now and then she reaches out. The other night she asked me to proofread an essay, and I settled in. I read her notes written across the top, helpfully outlining the goals of the assignment. My stomach sank and tears came to my eyes. Not because it was bad. It wasn’t. But becasue:
I didn’t recognize her handwriting.
This child, who I created, whose every breath and sound and smell and emotion was known to me so intimately years ago, was becoming someone I did not know.
I’ve always said it’s my job to raise an adult. This year, as she has given me no reason to hold her back, I have let her have a lot of freedom. In 8 months she will be solo, off to some school in some far off part of the country. I am excited for her — and for me. I retire from my SAHM carrier after more than 21 years. She gets to start a journey, and I will start a new chapter. But I am a little scared, too.
Remember when they started all-day school, and for the first time ever you didn’t know what they did all day? Yeah, this is gonna be that on steroids. And I won’t see her every night to witness the small changes. I will probably see her every few months. And wow: is she gonna change.
If I don’t know her handwriting now, when we share the same milk carton, what won’t I recognize when she returns home after months at a dining commons? What foods will she now love that she refused to eat at my table? Will her voice sound different, once she has learned the new language of burgeoning adulthood? Will she stand taller, bolstered by self awareness, or stoop under the weight of new struggles?
As I mentioned before I am heading up the Senior Party. Yes, it is a nightmare of details and not enough support. Yes, I want to cry and pull my hair out at times. But you know what that night is? It’s the last time these 830 kids, many of whom have shared classrooms for more than 12 years, will get to hang out and be children. I co-chaired Sailor Boy’s senior party back in 2015. Those kids, who almost didn’t come because they were too cool for a lame party, had a ball. They ran around, laughing, playing, chatting with friends they really hadn’t hung out with since elementary school.
I want my daughter — my Singer Girl — to have the best last big kid’s party I can give her. Even if I wouldn’t recognize her handwriting in the thank you note she’ll never write. Seeing her smile with her buddies will be enough — especially knowing that a few months later I’ll be waving to that smile in the rear-view mirror as I leave my Volunteer Career on the curb at her college.