parenting, Uncategorized

Dear Elementary School.

I know we’ve been together for 10 years, but as our youngest child is finishing up 5th grade, it’s time for us to break up.

It’s a bittersweet ending to what I can truly say has been a pretty amazing relationship. On one hand, it’s time. Our 5th grader is ready to move on to middle school. As parents, we’re beginning to feel a little out of place among the parents herding younger siblings on the playground and pushing them around in strollers.

On the other hand, even though we know it’s time, it’s still so hard to leave.

When we first walked through the door, you were a little intimidating, despite the small stature of the people inside. We were about to trust you to take care of and educate our kids, who frankly we’d only known for a handful of years. We hadn’t yet figured out how to get them to eat anything but plain pasta, so we were wondering how in the world you’d get them to actually learn anything.

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I think of how much we didn’t know when we came into this relationship, and how much we’ve all learned in 10 years.

You taught our kids how to write in cursive. How to check out a library book. What to do if you think you’re going to throw up someplace that’s not home (Answer: try not to do it on the floor. But when you’re still this little, it’ll all be okay if you do). How to write a book report, do long division and play games on those little scooters in gym. How to make conversation during lunch, and how to play nicely at recess (and what happens when you don’t).

You taught our kids that getting a bad grade isn’t the end of the world. That if you fall off the monkey bars, dust yourself off and try it again. That kindness matters.

You worked with us to give our kids the confidence to participate in nerve-wracking spelling bees, to learn how to play an instrument, to give a presentation in front of the class, to ask for help when they needed it. You helped them set goals like making our town’s all-city music ensembles or district art show; you celebrated with them when they achieved these goals, and helped them know it was okay when they didn’t.

We learned lessons too. That sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your kid is just not going to eat that lunch you packed for him (Bonus lesson: he won’t starve to death). We learned that every kid picks up different skills – social and academic – at different times, and comparing your kid to another one is probably not going to make anyone happy.

Together,  we learned that sometimes people are going to disappoint us. And that others are going to be there for us in ways that we couldn’t even anticipate.

Thank you, elementary school. You’re a very special place. I know you’re going to make some other family very happy.

 

 

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parenting

Mixing it up.

I did one of those things yesterday that on the surface seems fairly meaningless, but made me take pause and think.

I mixed together some crayons.

Now, my kids are 14 and 10, and while we still have crayons in the house, they’re rarely used. Michael needed to color in some maps for a school assignment over the weekend, and when I was putting them away, I wondered why we had one small container of crayons, as well as a larger bin that wasn’t full. So I poured the crayons from the small container into the larger one. And then I stopped.

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You see, that smaller container held more than just a few crayons; it held memories.

When Matthew was four, his preschool teachers did a unit on the states. Something about it captivated him, and he wanted more. We read books (Scrambled States of America became a fast favorite), did puzzles and played with state flashcards. In the midst of this, we took a day trip to the Crayola Factory, and discovered that a few years before, Crayola had made a collection of state crayons (imagine – Cornhusker Yellow, Aloha Aquamarine, and Tennesienna!). Though they had been discontinued, we easily found a box on Ebay as a gift for Matthew. He spent hours with map coloring pages and his state crayons. He sorted them. He laid them out on the floor.

He used them for a while, then forgot about them, and they’d come out now and then when someone needed crayons for homework and didn’t want to pull out the bigger bin.

Fast forward to yesterday. I only paused briefly before dumping the state crayons into the container where they’d mingle with the rest of the regular Crayolas that had been collected from the big box of 64 crayons and leftovers from school pencil cases and the end of each year.

I was immediately hit with a pang of regret. Those crayons were more than just something my kids used to color. They were special. They were a part of who Matthew was at the time, and who he continues to become.

But I realized that just like the crayons, these experiences mix together to create who we are and what we love. Keeping them separate wouldn’t bring back that sweet time, or strengthen the memories. So I decided to let them go.

Sometimes, I find that it’s difficult to know what to hang onto, and what to let go. But yesterday, I think I learned that letting something go doesn’t mean that I’ve diminished its importance. I’m just going to take the memories and the crayons, put them all together, and move along with these wonderful people my children continue to become.

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