Saturday, June 9, 2012
I'll be one of the moms crying at graduation today
When my children were born, I realized immediately that their lives were an open book, and it was up to their daddy and me to help fill those pages with happy memories and experiences that would carry them through a lifetime.
So we read to them, we told them stories, we splashed in the rain puddles in our driveway, and we stayed up late on summer nights catching lightning bugs.
We let them mix the dyes and create new colors after we finished decorating Easter eggs. We asked them how much change they’d get back from a five dollar bill when we purchased something at the store. One night, we drove to my aunt and uncle’s farm so they would have a better view of a predicted meteor shower.
We let Robert build elaborate mazes with twine that wrapped around the furniture and from room to room, and we let Anna play with scissors when she was just a toddler because even then she wanted to create art.
Today, our baby girl will walk across the stage at Hunt High School and receive her diploma. Her brother did the same thing three years ago. And with that brief walk, she will take a huge leap towards the independence she craves.
I read a lot about child rearing when my babies were born, and one thing that stuck with me for more than 20 years now was this: From the moment our children are born, it’s our job to prepare them to be able to live without us — to grow up and leave the nest, in other words.
As Anna gets ready to leave our nest (figuratively, I hope), I’m wondering if her daddy and I did everything we could to prepare her for this next step. Is she ready for the big world?
Reggie and I certainly tried to do the right things. We stimulated both of our children and tried to instill a love of learning. We chose a wonderful preschool program where they learned to write their ABCs, went on field trips, made good friends and found out what it was like to spend a chunk of their day away from home and Grandma’s house.
We enrolled them in art camps and science camps in the summer, and they both learned to swim. Robert played on sports teams; Anna took dance and piano lessons.
We went to the library and brought home stacks of favorite books. We read about Arthur and D.W., about the Berenstain Bears, Thomas the Tank Engine and Cinderella, Junie B. Jones and Captain Underpants. We spent hours choosing books for them to satisfy Accelerated Reading requirements and, later, Battle of the Books’ lists.
Reggie and I went to ball games, dance recitals, spelling bees, band competitions and open houses. We chaperoned field trips, took food for parties and bought whatever supplies the teacher requested. We wanted our children to know that we supported them and wanted to be there for them and that they could always count on us to cheer them on.
I picked up my children from school every chance I got, and I quizzed them on their day. We talked about what they ate in the cafeteria, how they did on tests and what homework had to be completed that night. I asked open-ended questions, hoping for more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
We read Bible stories to our children from the time they were babies and took them to Sunday school and church. We planned our summer around a week of Bible school — first when they were students and later when they were helpers.
We taught them to respect their teachers and encouraged them to finish projects early or at least on time. One child was better at this than the other! We looked over poetry booklets and bought supplies for science projects, and let plants grow and die in the dining room — all in the name of science.
We let them know we didn’t expect them to be perfect. Yes, it’s OK if you don’t get an A on every test or every report card. And I told them what my daddy told my sister and me: “I don’t expect you to get all A’s, but I do expect you to behave at school.” I got this talk when I came home with an “N” in “avoids unnecessary talking” on my report card, and I’ve already given it to my 3-year-old granddaughter.
It was not all fun. I’m sure any parent will tell you that. Anna got so carsick on a bus field trip to Tryon Palace that I thought we might have to take her to the hospital for fluids. Tears from a child who has been teased can bring you to your knees with pain and then anger, and a call from the teacher seldom brings good news.
But one time, a call did bring a good laugh; it’s funny now, at least! Anna’s first- or second-grade teacher called to say our daughter would be coming home with only one shoe that day. The whole class had looked, she said, but they couldn’t find the other one. I went out to school that afternoon and searched and searched myself before finding that missing shoe in the classroom next door!
I think Reggie and I did as well as any other parent in preparing Anna for this next step in her life. She’s a good girl and works hard and has goals. It’s so important to have goals. She’s excited about college and the challenges and the joys it will bring. And that’s a good thing. It will be fun watching her on her next journey — as she fills up more pages of that empty book.
But I will miss Anna’s high school days: her 2:30 call when she walks out of school and the daily talk about the gossip and the school work and her day in general. I’ll miss watching her fly around the house at 7 o’clock each morning, frantically searching for a missing shoe (some things never change) and her occasional call for me to bring something to class: a textbook or a paint brush or money for lunch. Funny thing, I loved getting those calls because it meant she still needed me.
I’ll miss the excitement of preparing for the prom, buying something special to wear for picture day and her eagerness in planning an art project.
It’s hard to believe it’s over.
And yes, I will miss my children’s school days, but mostly, I will miss my children.