The past couple of weeks (and the next week or so, as well) can only be characterized as volcanic. Most of the time, my life moves along at the same pace, even with minor changes in routine, and while I know that time is marching on and things are changing incrementally, imperceptibly, I have accepted that one day I will look back and be astonished at how far we’ve come from one place or another.
And then there are times when it feels as though I am lost in an unmanned capsule hurtling through space at the speed of light en route to a destination I knew about but somehow didn’t realize was so close.
Eve graduated from 8th grade last night. After four incredible years at my favorite middle school on the planet, she is done. We watched her play basketball for four seasons, learn to tap into her own unique talents and tendencies to develop into a strong leader, forge friendships with a diverse group of girls who make her laugh and cry, and I knew this day was coming, but like these things do, it happened slowly and then instantly. She is so ready to move on to the next chapter, and I am so glad I have the next two and a half months to get more mentally and emotionally prepared for it. She likes to torture me by saying things like, “You know, Mom, I can get my driver’s permit in less than a year if I want.” For my part, I continue to remind her that we live in the city and there’s a bus stop half a block away if she wants…
She was home yesterday when a friend came to have lunch with me and we invited her to join us. At first I was afraid she might be bored with our conversation, but I needn’t have worried. Somewhere along the way she has grown into her aspirations of confidence and independence and she was a lively and appropriate part of our visit.
Tomorrow, Lola turns 12. When she got dressed for last night’s graduation ceremony and appeared in the kitchen ready to go, I noticed how long her legs are getting and how the roundness of her cheeks has melted away as she heads inevitably toward teenagerdom. She still loves watching SpongeBob Squarepants and snuggling with me on the mornings that I wake her up for school, but she is following her sister’s example of spending more time in her room alone and asserting her ability to make more decisions. The great debate this year revolved around which movie she and her friends would see this weekend, given that some parents are uncomfortable with the PG-13 content of the ones on their short list. It is such a challenge to watch these girls straddle goofy girlhood and the desire to be grown up, although I suspect it is more of a challenge to be living that dichotomy.
As for me, I am struggling to find some clear perspective on what my role is at this juncture. I don’t want to hold on too tightly, clenching my fists around the golden threads that tether them to me, but I’m not ready to completely let go, either. As I watched Eve and her friends glide across that stage last night to get their diplomas, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the hours of sleepovers and carpool driving I was lucky enough to be part of, privy to some inside jokes and candid conversations and the march toward young adulthood they each took in their own time. I was moved to tears when I heard one of them acknowledge the strength of the foundation they have all given each other, a platform from which they can all leap confidently. I am looking forward to two more years of that with Lola, starting with next week when I’ll chaperone their final trip of the year – a three day bike and camping excursion on a local island a few hours away. I am excited to watch them challenge themselves physically and emotionally (and I’ve already told them they are responsible for pitching my tent since I’ve never done that in my life) and come together as a class to problem solve. I fully anticipate that there will be tears of joy and frustration and at least one girl will likely get shoved into the water, whereupon the rest will follow in solidarity.
In the abstract, I know what is to come for Eve as she heads off to high school, and I also know that these next four years will march by slowly and surely until there is another seismic shift forward that lands us squarely in the lap of high school graduation, amazed that it came so quickly.
I am a little sad, and very nostalgic, but more than anything, I am overcome with love for my girls and my fabulous husband and an intense feeling of gratitude that I am lucky enough to witness and be part of their lives each and every day as we move toward these momentous events in all our lives.
Dear Kari, this posting is so heartfelt that it reached out to me and I remembered my own youth and wondered what my mom was feeling when I graduated from grade school (8th grade). I've never known the joy and the terror and the ups and downs of raising children. But I've been privileged to watch the children of friends grow up and venture forth into their lives from very young to teens to young twenties. Their parents have been generous in letting me share the journey with them and with their children. To be a good parent–to raised children responsibly and to know when to let go and when to cup the palm beneath them–is I think the greatest challenge of life. It would seem to me, in reading your postings for the past three years that you and your husband have done your job lovingly and patiently and with much deep down wisdom. Peace.
Oh, Kari, what a lovely and poignant post. As I've followed your parenting journey over the last few years, I've always been so amazed at what an intentional and loving parent you are. I'm glad you're getting to feel some of the rewards connected to that. Also, this is simply gorgeous writing, and deserves to be shared beyond your wonderful blog.