Another year, another milestone
"Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It's about hanging on during a very bumpy ride." -- Ron Taffel
"Ra-roo-ra-roo-ra-roo," I hear my daughter call as she headed out the door this past spring to play with the neighbor's grandkids. It is to the tune of, "Cock-a-doodle-doo." I sadly smiled to myself as I realized I have been hearing this call less and less frequently. Swiftly, I walked toward my laptop in order to type in this phrase, as I knew I would want to write about this memory when the time was right.
Since that moment, I have yet to hear it again. You see, Dear Reader, like all children, I am unable to hold on to her childhood. We only have our children for such short moments in time. They are not meant for us to keep. Yet, the closer to adulthood she gets, the more I fight the desire to grasp.
Madelyn, my daughter, begins high school on Aug. 7. I am stunned by this fact. Do all parents feel this way as their child moves from one milestone to the next? It seems like only last month, I was attending her kindergarten graduation. In fact, just a few days ago, Maddie and I sat down to watch the DVD of May 2005 kindergarten graduation and program.
We both laughed; I also quietly cried. There she was -- so tiny and gregarious. Miniature purple glasses framed her sizeable green eyes as she swayed back and forth during the play. Obedient, angelic face, upturned to her teacher upon receiving her diploma. "Now?" she asks, for permission to walk back to her seat.
I remember picking out her impish purple dress, those white sandals, white anklet socks and even braiding her damp hair the night before so that it would be "curly" for this special occasion, as she requested. How vividly I recall helping her memorize her lines for the play, and listening to her sing the songs from the play to and from school as she sat behind me in her car seat. Even now, I know what she looked like in her navy plaid school jumper with navy Mary Jane shoes swinging to beat of her song below the car seat, singing in the manner only a child can sing as I viewed her through the rear mirror. Sometimes, she would catch me spying her, and giggle, "Oh, Mommy, I see you looking at me."
Then, there was the one morning of her kindergarten year when she kept complaining on the way to school that something was itching her neck. I assumed it was a tag, and promised to cut it off when we arrived at her school. Yet, she was persistent, stating that it was not the tag. I walked her into her classroom, my hand holding her minute hand, and asking the teacher, Mrs. Miller if she had any scissors I could use to cut a tag out of her jumper. Mrs. Miller stated, "Let me look at her back" -- as Madelyn was never a kid who complained about tags bothering her. As it turned out, my kindergartner had chicken pox -- despite having had the vaccination!
Maddie and I laugh now about how I called my school to tell the secretary that I would need a substitute for the day, but that I would come into school to set up for the teacher. Walking down my own school hall, I would tell my co-workers' children who were stepping out of their parent's room to say "hi" to Madelyn and ask why she was with me, "Stay back, Maddie has chicken pox. I don't want you catch them." One co-worker, Lela Petrie, who probably thought I was making a fool of myself, and rightly so, knelt before Maddie.
"You're going to have a great time with Mommy today at home. Chicken pox are so much fun. I'll stop by later with a surprise for you."
Sure enough, to this day, Maddie still talks about how pleasurable it was to have chicken pox and miss school. The afternoon of her first day home, Mrs. Petrie brought Maddie an "Arthur" video that both of her girls watched when they had the chicken pox. Plus, she brought her a coloring book, a large pixie stick and a package of twirly-swirly drinking straws, just like the character Arthur and his sister used in the video when they had chicken pox!
Now, here we are, 2013. We stand on the threshold of a new milestone -- both for my daughter and for my husband and me as parents. I ensured Maddie registered for classes early in the spring. We have dutifully ordered her new high school uniforms as well as her textbooks. The backpack she has used since fifth grade will now be replaced with a more "grown-up" model. As per Maddie's request, we have begun to make subtle changes in her bedroom -- so that it is also more "mature" and accommodating to the needs of adolescence. Additionally, she is working diligently on her summer assignment, so that she will be prepared for that first day of class.
Despite all of these measures, I must ask, am I equipped to be the parent of a high school student? Is Madelyn emotionally, physically and spiritually primed for all the demands high school will bring? What memories will the next four years produce? These are the questions on my mind. Funny, these were the same concerns I had when she began kindergarten.
And, so, Dear Reader, our children will grow up and move on despite -- and perhaps, in spite of -- our shortcomings as parents. Therefore, just as I did in August of 2004, I will kiss my daughter on that first day of school. I will encourage her to have a great day and tell her that I cannot wait to hear all about it when I pick her up.
May we all ask God to watch the children of the world -- no matter what stage of life they may be. And, may God bless the parents. Give us the wisdom, strength, and stamina to be the parents our children need.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.