This blogger captures exactly what I have felt at graduations.
Category Archives: My Progeny
Today is another last day of school in our house. They just started school a few weeks ago but now we have a college graduate, a rising senior in high school, and a rising 8th grader. What the hell? I once figured out that we would have at least one child in primary school for 22 years, and now we have only 5 years to go. It is so cliché to say that it goes fast, and everyone tells you that, but I am here to tell you that it goes by so, so fast.
I did not have the opportunity to know my grandparents very well, but I do have happy memories of each one.
Dad’s mom used to offer my sisters and me gefilte fish every time we visited, first thing, right as we walked in the door. Although we never took her up on it (in fact, I don’t think you could have paid us to eat it), I love that this is something I remember about her. I still have a children’s encyclopedia that she gave us, signed in her own handwriting on the inside cover. She died when I was 11.
Mom’s mom used to give us Boo Berry cereal when we came to visit, and it was the best cereal EVER. Boo Berry was reintroduced a few years ago with a new formula and sadly it was not the same. My grandma died when I was 17, but she had suffered from Alzhemier’s for many years before that, so my memories of her without being ill are from when I was much younger.
Dad’s dad entertained us with animal noises when we were very little. He and Grandma lived in a small platform house, and when we jumped on the floor it made a racket, so he would tell us not to jump because we would wake up the ants under the house. It is funny what we remember; that and the dinners at Morrison’s cafeteria. Grandpa remarried after my grandma died, and he moved to a nice Jewish retirement community in South Florida. He died when I was in college.
Mom’s dad danced and sang when we visited him in Miami while I was growing up, and he was my only grandparent to be able to make it to my wedding. By that time, he was in a wheelchair and very frail. He died three years after I got married.
Sometimes we get another chance to have a grandparent, and I have claimed my husband’s grandmother as my own. This family I married into is large, very close, and most of them live close to each other. I should have known we had a connection when my husband (boyfriend, at the time), took me to his grandma’s house and the name of the street was my name. I later learned that Grandma was the one who chose the name of the street.
Grandma was diagnosed with cancer recently and just had surgery, so you might think I am writing this out of fear for what is going to happen in the months to come. I guess that is true to a degree, but really I just wanted to put down on paper, so to speak, the things that are on my mind. Grandma is independent, strong, caring, and somewhat cantankerous. She is a lot like me. Although we aren’t related by blood, I would swear that we were. She loves to read (I love to read), she is not afraid to say what she thinks (I am not afraid to say what I think), and she has a beautiful way of accepting everyone without judgment (I hope I can say the same for myself). The things I wish I could have learned about my own grandparents I have had the great fortune to be able to learn about Grandma – who she is, what she likes, what her life has been like, and stories about her children, her parents and 5 siblings, and her grandchildren before I knew them.
Besides my love for Grandma, I feel ridiculously lucky that my kids know their great grandmother. My kids know how lucky they are, and I take pride in that. What a special thing to be able to say you grew up having a relationship with a great grandparent. Grandma has 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren. My daughter is the oldest great grandchild at age 21 and the youngest is just a baby.
Grandma does not like the helpless feeling she gets from having to rely on others to take care of her. She does not like feeling sick or being in pain (who can blame her?). Doesn’t it suck that our bodies start to fail us when we really are young inside? I told her before I left the hospital today that it’s going to suck for a few days, maybe a few weeks, but she’s going to get better. I know she will get better.
The blog link at the end of this message brought many years of tooth fairy strife back to me. With my oldest, our tooth fairy once forgot to come and the next night my daughter got a note neatly done on the computer apologizing for getting behind and not coming the previous night. The next day, my daughter said, exasperated with me, “The tooth fairy doesn’t have a computer.” Well, that transition of losing the tooth fairy myth was pretty smooth.
My next child was a tooth fairy freak. She had this idea in her head that the tooth fairy was this very, very tiny fairy, so she would write little teeny tiny notes and leave them under her pillow: “What is your name?” “How old are you?” “When is your birthday?” The tooth fairy dutifully wrote back in teeny tiny handwriting. For the record, this is when we decided each child had his/her own personal tooth fairy. This child’s tooth fairy is named Pearlina, was 399 years old at the time, and her birthday just happens to be the same day as my daughter’s birthday. My daughter was thrilled, she even dressed up as the tooth fairy for Halloween, and these little notes are now in her baby book. When it came time for my last child to start losing teeth, my daughter was very excited to help him write notes to HIS tooth fairy. This tooth fairy is male, of course, and his name is Cal (short for Calcium) and his birthday is, lo and behold, the same day as my son’s.
Whenever a child would lose a tooth, I would write a small happy face on the back of my hand with a pen. Then, when I was getting ready for bed I would look at my hand and say to my husband, “Whoa, the tooth! You do it…” You see, this is a tradition that is not really my favorite. It is nerve wracking to have to exchange the money for the tooth without waking the child. What would happen if he or she woke up? Would it scar them for life? So, what did I do? I made my husband do it, God bless him.
My son, my youngest, recently lost the last tooth, and I am happy that chapter is closed. I am also happy that we made it special for our kids. Maybe they will continue the tradition with theirs.
So it hit me recently that from the time our children start kindergarten until they graduate from high school is only 13 years. That seems obvious, I know. But here’s the thing: assuming we live to the age we are told is the current US life expectancy, 78-ish, our childhoods last only 1/6 of our lives, a little less than 1/4 of our lives if you count babyhood. Whoa, THAT’S why it seems to go so fast.
I have a great relationship with my kids, at least in my mind I think I do. I hope they think the same, and those most important things in life – safety, family, morals, learning and teaching – we have those pretty well handled. Enter the electronics. Let’s define “electronics” – phones, iPods, tablets, TVs, game consoles, computers and all the cool things that they do, like Skype or other Facetime-type apps. We have Netflix, a DVR (which I love, by the way), a Wii, a PS2, an XBox, 4 tablets, 5 phones, 4 TVs, and 5 computers. This is not an inventory for the purpose of bragging; this is an inventory to demonstrate how many distractions are taking us (all of us) away from wanting to interact with each other in our own home. Thankfully, we still enforce family dinners and discussions, and my dear husband and I do have our time that we watch movies or shows together after the kids are in bed, albeit we are using one of those electronic devices, the TV.
The electronics keep us connected with our college-age child and with family and friends who do not live nearby. We like to play board games on the weekends when we are not running around like crazy, but even that is something we are forcing a little bit. I am coming to a realization, but it makes me sorta sad. I don’t know that I can continue to limit my kids’ time on their electronics and force family time outside of meals and trips. They don’t want to do things with us, and they don’t want to do anything in their free time besides be on their electronics, which makes me feel like I am losing control, but I guess I am not. I am just losing my connection. They remind me that it is their FREE time and they want to do what they want to do, so I am in the background reminding them of their obligations, what they don’t really truly want to do, and then the headphones go back on and they mentally disappear until bedtime.
My son got through schedule pickup and meet the teacher at middle school (for 2-1/2 hours!). He did so well, in fact, that he said “This is the first time I have ever been excited for the first day of school.” Well, hell. High expectations; I hope he keeps that positive attitude. It will be his first time riding a bus to school, too. I might not make it through the 7 hours of school on Monday, not knowing whether he is having a good day or not. Funny thing…you would think that since he is my youngest I would be more confident, more willing to gently push him out the door. I don’t know what it is – my sentimentality, I guess. Maybe a little bit that he is the baby, the only boy (who does not seem quite as mature as the girls were at the same age), or maybe I know too much about middle school because of my experience with the girls. I hope…I HOPE he won’t have to face bullying, the feeling of being lost in a big school, the uncertainty surrounding the newness of the middle school experience. At the same time I am so excited for him to become more responsible and independent. We just need to get through his first science project…Oy.
Today is the end of a great era in my life. My oldest child started kindergarten in 1998 and my youngest finished elementary school today, which means I spent 16 years as a parent of an elementary age child. You might think my youngest child graduating from elementary school would mean the end of an era in my children’s lives, but no, it’s not that exactly. Yes, each time my kids left their 6 years of elementary school and went on to middle school, there was a huge adjustment – bigger school, more classes, more homework, more mean kids, puberty (!), bat and bar mitzvah…but kids are resilient. They make new friends, grow, learn, adjust, and they are ready for high school when the time comes. For me, on the other hand, it is a different change. Moms make their friends when kids are in preschool: on the playground and at story time at the library and in mommy and me groups. When the kids are in elementary school, we are on PTA boards, volunteering at book fairs, spaghetti dinners, and in the classroom, and we have a core group of moms (and some dads) that are right there with us for years at a time.
And now, it changes. Where I grew up, there was 1 high school. So, if a parent is volunteering starting in kindergarten, the parents are a constant all the way through the senior year of high school. In my community, the kids from our elementary school go to 7 different middle schools and then transition to 5 high schools. The mixing up of the student population is crazy, and you never know if you will meet up with the parents you knew and volunteered with in elementary school. That’s how I feel…I will miss those parents who I got to see all the time who now are going on to a different school and maybe we will never meet up again. Maybe we will see each other on Facebook and maybe our kids will end up in the same high school after our 3-year hiatus at middle school. It’s exciting and sad at the same time.
What will I do in 7 years, when my son graduates from high school? Only 7 years. How time flies. Good thing I get along with my husband 😉