Friday, June 27, 2008

The end ... and the beginning

This has been a year of momentous endings (and beginnings).

My daughter J graduated from grade school on Monday June 23rd. She will start middle school in the fall. She stopped going to day care in the early spring and she started walking home by herself from school, a good 20 minute walk. She stays home by herself for short periods. She will go to summer camp for two weeks in July.

Letting go, letting go ... I'm not good at that. I am old school about my kid and likely as protective as my strict Sicilian mother ever was. Hmm, it hurts to remember that sometimes.

One night, not too long ago, I had a veritable tantrum, complete with tears, in front of my husband R and daughter J. Things were going too fast! What was the big rush? Why was everyone in such a hurry for J to grow up? I asked. She is only 11. Why can't we go a little slower?

R started to gently reprimand me, You have to let her grow up, you can't protect her from everything, she needs to do these things ...

Surprisingly, this raised J's hackles. She marched up to me, threw her arms around my shoulders protectively and turned to her father accusingly, practically shaking her finger at him the way little girls do with boys and men: Daddy, you don't understand! It's hard for mommy, she only has one baby! It's harder for her than for other mommies!

Ai yi yi. I thought, naively it appears, she didn't see how I struggled when she wanted more independence. I thought I was being tough on the outside. I'd rather she thought I was strict than sometimes afraid for her.

As we were getting ready for her graduation ceremony Monday afternoon I was getting very misty eyed (I can hear R interjecting right now - "try weeping inconsolably" - but he would be embellishing the incident and this is my story). She rarely wears a dress but agreed to one for graduation with only some persuasion required. It was very simple, black, it fell to her knees in folds matched with these sweet black ballet slippers that her dad helped her pick out. She borrowed a necklace from me, a dark chain with deep blue and purple stones. She wore her hair down to her shoulders which she never does.

She has lovely hair, exactly like my sister F's in colour and thickness - dark, shiny, healthy, long. She looked so grown up - like a teenager almost. Every mother thinks her kid is gorgeous, I'm no exception.

Again with the waterworks! Ugh - this is getting old Mommy I said to myself Keep it together a little.

The ceremony at the school was so affecting - the two grade six teachers took turns presenting diplomas to each graduate. Mr. B. and Ms. H., wonderful grade six teachers, young, enthusiastic, fun, disciplined. They had thoughtfully written a little blurb about each graduate highlighting their accomplishments or talents, hidden or otherwise. The kids seemed pleased, embarrassed, happy, uneasy - everything at once. The grade five classes sang for the graduates. A friend of J's was valedictorian.

J had designed the year book cover (voted on and chosen by her fellow grads) and had won an Artistic Merit Award for her efforts. I made her uncomfortable by telling family about it (too bad kid - that's my prerogative as a mother - ha!). She had a special mention in the program.

The girls looked phenomenal on stage in their pretty summer dresses with their hair done up especially for graduation. A bit of jewellery. Some even sneaked on some lip gloss. The boys ... not so much I'm afraid - some schlepping on stage in shorts, sneakers, somebody's too big jacket or tie. It's hard to dress boys nicely I think at this age without spending a bit of cash.

The class had chosen U2's "Beautiful Day" as their theme song as they exited the gym. U2 has always had a strange effect on me - you guessed - more tears!

Afterwards the kids raced around taking photos and sharing their report cards. Hugging, laughing ...

We had dinner with close friends that night. Their sons were also graduating from the same grade school. One of my best sister-friends A helped me with J's hair after dinner. J was unusually cooperative. She is a tomboy, does not like fussing or dressing up, or anyone fiddling around with her hair. But she was very patient as she got ready.

All four parents walked the kids to the school gymnasium. The dance started at 7.30 and ended at 9.30. We were not permitted to look into the gym. Grade six parents are not allowed to chaperone the grad dance - makes the kids too self conscious I'm sure. When we returned to pick J up we were greeted by a mob of sobbing girls. The girls are all crying in the gym! J exclaimed. At first I was alarmed but then we realized that they were tired, sad, already nostalgic for grade school.

R said Maybe I should take a look and see ...? He edged towards the gym. J jumped in front of him with her arms outstretched. No! she said, only semi-jokingly. She did not want us in that gym. J was strangely nonplussed by all the crying. She said nonchalantly, I tried to cry but I couldn't. That gave us a good laugh on the way back home.

J was ravenous, kept asking for food when we got home. Nervousness? Exhaustion? I don't know. It was a great day. I felt a flush of every emotion coursing through me ... happiness, sadness, nostalgia, anxiety about the future, pride.

J is going to summer camp for the first time starting the first week of July and will be away for two weeks! Some of the other parents in the 'hood are saying yippee - child free for a week (or two). I have more trepidation. She is our one and only.

Another beginning ... seems like everyone is up for it. Time for Mama to get on board.


Unknown said...

"I tried to cry but I couldn't." --that gave me a laugh too. But this Sicilian mamma is getting misty-eyed with you.

Good luck with this new beginning and I hope those two weeks fly by!

A Lit Chick said...

No tears today (from either side) as we dropped J off. I think it will be a great two weeks for her. :)

Thank you for thinking of us!