Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Cat's in the Cradle

In Georgia, kids go to Middle School in 6th grade, rather than Junior High in 7th grade. Today was my oldest son's 5th grade graduation. It was over three hours ago and I am still fighting random bouts of weepiness.

This hit me hard. Harder than that day so long ago when he jumped out of the Van with his little yellow bag swinging on his arm, landed with satisfying smack, and then bounded into school without a backward glance. I thought he would be afraid. I thought he would cling to me and beg me not to make him go to school. I thought I would have to carry him in, and then sneak out the door while he was mesmerized by the puppet theatre. But no. He went willingly and eagerly. It broke my heart. It made me proud. It was my first real glimmer of understanding that this momentous day was just one event in a long, bittersweet series leading to the ultimate heartbreak of autonomy.

For those of you whose babies are still sweet and small, I won't sugar coat it. 11 year olds are a pain in the ass. They are children on the brink of adulthood, which causes a lot of conflict, both internal, and external. Sometimes, they want the security, familiarity and lightheartedness that comes with being a child. Others, they demand the respect, independance and responsibility that one would afford an adult. We poor befoozled parents never know from day to day whether we will be dealing with an innocent affable child or an irascible budding adult. And unfortunately, there is nothing to tip us off until the wrong choice on our part has ignited a powder keg of belligerance or the slow burn of simmering sullenness.

But they are also beautiful and hopeful and full of life. They are looking forward with the eagerness of youthful, innocent eyes. They are poised to spread their wings and fly; not yet weighed down by the burden of making their own way in the world. They still have the potential that most of us have already left behind and the unquestioning confidence that they will realize it. They still believe they can do anything. And they can.

Watching them take the next big step in their life journey touched me in a way I find hard to put into words.

I'm not a weepy person by nature. Honestly. I'm just not a big cryer. But as the entire 5th grade filed in, dressed so painstakingly, with solemn faces intended to look mature and poised, I felt the tears welling. I blinked furiously and managed to keep them from spilling over, determined not to bawl my way through the entire two hour ceremony. Thankfully, I was not alone. Nearly every Mom sniffled and snuffled at one point or another, and I saw a few Dads covertly dabbing as well, including the one who accompanied me.

There was one point in the ceremony that will always stand out in my mind; more even than watching my own child receive his awards. Our school district is wonderfully adaptive and accomodating of students with special needs. Mainstreaming is encouraged and facilitated whenever possible. As a result, there are several special needs children that my son has known throughout his school years, and whom we have all watched grow and thrive in such a nurturing environment.

R. is one such child. I first met R. and his mother when he was placed in my son's 3rd grade class. He has Asperger's syndrome, which, for those of you who don't know, shares some characteristics of Autism, but in general, allows a higher level of functionality. Children with Asperger's syndrome face a variety of social and academic challenges. Everyday is a struggle in a world that does not understand them and that doesn't quite "fit". But R. has overcome in numerous ways and in so doing, taught the so-called "normal" kids a whole lot about acceptance, the importance of educating others about special needs, and what a person can accomplish with enough determination.

The awards were handed out by class. After requesting that parents hold their applause until all the awards were handed out, each teacher presented the awards to his or her students. For the most part, parents complied with applause protocol. But when R. was awared an Academic Achievement award, the entire auditorium erupted into thunderous applause. At first, R. was startled and disconcerted. But then realization lit up his face, and slowly, shyly, he raised his thin arms above his head in a gesture of simple but transcendant triumph.

Devastation ensued.

Every single parent in the room was bawling unabashedly. His mother, who was seated in the row ahead of me, was beaming and bawling. It was the kind of moment that makes a person feel good about life.

We scarcely had a chance to wipe the mascara from our cheeks when the finale began. It was a slideshow set to "Forever Young". Once again, I was overcome with emotion. And once again, I was not alone. Because that's what we all want so goddamned bad. For our kids to stay forever young. And because they all want so badly to grow up. From here on out, we are working at cross purposes. I have to smother the urge to protect him from everything bad, to keep him from making his own mistakes, and allow him to make decisions I know will end in heartbreak, humiliation, and possibly, jail time. I don't like it.

I'm trying to convince myself that if my children want to strike out on their own, It's because I've managed to give them what they need to become strong and independant. If I've done my job right, my children will leave me. It's one of life's greatest ironies.

I remember a tiny premature baby at my breast and it seems impossible that he is the gangling youth who now looks me in the eye. He knows I am struggling today. Normally, I am not allowed to touch, caress, or otherwise initiate physical contact with him in public. But today he allowed me to hug him in full view of his friends. And he whispered "I love you Mom" while I clung to him. I know he does. And I know he always will. And I will hold onto that when he takes his next big step away from me.

Good bye my baby. I will miss you. Hello confident adult. I look forward to getting to know you. I'm sure you are everything I always knew you would be, and more.

8 Comments:

  • At 4:41 PM, Blogger Antique Mommy said…

    "And he whispered "I love you Mom" while I clung to him. I know he does." -- That made me cry. Lovely and so much of what I'm feeling right now.

     
  • At 9:38 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Stop it. sniff. You're the second person whose blog I've read today that wrote about a graduation. I'm already weepy and teary and PMSing and now I'm picturing my 13 month old as an independent young lady about to enter middle school and I'm crying.

    Congratulations to you and your son on this big milestone. Naturally, you wore waterproof mascara. Right?

     
  • At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Izzy said…

    I had my big boo-hoo fest tonight in the form of an end-of-the-year Spring Show and preschool graduation.

     
  • At 10:43 PM, Anonymous betsy said…

    My youngest is 11. He will graduate from elementary school in a couple of weeks. I must remember to wear waterproof mascara - I'm going to need it. VERY well put, BA. I know the age, and I share your sentiments. Thank you for expressing everything so beautifully.

    My son still tells me he loves me AND hugs me in public. But recently he told me that it may not last much longer - like he realizes he's growing up. I'll still be able to sneak those hugs in at home, though.

    (And for the record or for future reference - 14 year olds like to be hugged, even if they don't admit it.)

     
  • At 1:26 AM, Anonymous roo said…

    Congratulations to both of you!

     
  • At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Riebee said…

    Ah--- I'm glad that now this area has middle school as only 7th and 8th. My rising 6th grader is not ready for the change. Her brother was this year starting 7th. I was amazed at how mature he got while in 6th in the elementary school

    Good luck with your son BA. He's growing up- but not graduating HS like mine! :-(

     
  • At 6:18 AM, Anonymous kvetch said…

    I know exactly how you feel! As I sit here crying from your post because my daughter is set to graduate from 5th grade as well. Lucky for me, there is no ceremony. I did cry at the Volunteer Tea where they talk about the families and kids that are leaving the school (the youngest leaving 5th grade). I also have a son graduating 8th grade and I am going to wear waterproof mascara to that ceremony, for sure.

     
  • At 10:32 AM, Anonymous mothergoosemouse said…

    Dabbing at my eyes as well. I especially like what you said about the dichotomy of the tween years. It's hard for us to remember that it's a tough time for them too.

     

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