Monday, May 20, 2013

"O" is for over; for my kids, school is no longer in session. Strangely, that makes me sad.

Scott and Caroline, left, waiting for the school bus with the neighbor kids, circa 1997
It's over, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. For my family, as it exists right now, school is over.

I can't remember a time when I didn't love school. I didn't always like waking up early; there were teachers I didn't like, and I'm sure that from time to time, there was a test I wasn't prepared for. But I was a good student, and school was my comfort zone.

When I became a mother, I tried to pass that love of learning to my kids, and it "took" in various ways with each of them. Although they loved being read to, each went through a stage during which he or she didn't care to read for pleasure, and that wounded me.  But that worked itself out, and now I'm happy to report that I think each of my children will be a lifelong learner.

The formal part is over now, though, unless one of them decides to go to grad school. I can see that happening eventually, but if and when it does, I won't be a part of that experience; they're adults now. So for all intents and purposes, they're done. Each has at least one bachelor's degree.  I'll never again be the mom of a student. 

That makes me feel a little unmoored. I was always the mom who bought school supplies as soon as the lists came out, matching the pencil case to the scissors and the Trapper Keeper. I was the mom who signed up for the first slot at conferences, the one who happily served as PTO president, baked for bake sales and worked the book fairs.

As the kids grew older, I was still involved, chaperoning and volunteering and chairing boards. I believed in the importance of those activities, but I also wanted to send a message to my kids and to their teachers and administrators: In our family, school is very, very important.

There was more, though: I derived personal satisfaction from the good test scores, the pleasant conferences, the results that indicated although our family had its challenges, my kids were able to excel. Children whose parents are divorced are sometimes labeled as being at risk for certain educational challenges, and it meant a lot to me to help reinforce to my kids and to the people teaching them that that didn't have to be the case.

Most of all, though, I loved seeing the learning process take root and bloom. I loved seeing the light bulb turn on above each child's head when he or she learned to read. I loved watching music captivate Caroline and philosophy and history allow Scott to become the intellectual I always knew he was.

I don't mean to be melodramatic; I know my kids will continue to learn daily, as I have. And Caroline is a teacher now, so I'm sure I'll be able to get my "classroom fix" every now and again. But I'll miss the buildings and campuses that enveloped and nurtured my kids as they were students, and I'll miss the extraordinary men and women who gave of themselves to impart knowledge to my family.

I'm not a grandparent yet, and I sure don't want to rush anybody. But I'm calling dibs now, and I want this to be on record: When there are little ones in the picture and it's time to take anyone school-supply shopping, I'm coming along. I'll even foot the bill. And if I have my way, the pencil case will always, always match the Trapper Keeper.

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