We’re in the final stretch of the school year. My kids are about to change overnight from Kindergartner and fifth grader to first grader and sixth grader. These last few days at school are spent packing up the classroom and moving items into the sixth grade room, horsing around, and enjoying lots of time with friends. The Kindergartners will spend as much of the next two days as possible outside. On Friday we’ll go to an annual end-of-year party at the home of one of Lucas’s classmates, where we always celebrate with style and great joy.
In a way, it’s no small accomplishment that they’ve completed this year. Their challenges may seem small compared to those that adults experience, but they are significant for the children.
My little Asher has grown from a somewhat shy baby to a confident, clowning boy of the world in the two years he’s been in Kindergarten. He is highly social, a great listener and storyteller, a good friend, a very fast runner, a heartthrob, and a proficient helper. He has mad cleanup skills now, thanks to Kindergarten, and his art has moved lightyears ahead of where it was even just a few months ago. I see so many signs in him that he is ready, that he’s “graduating” and moving on to first grade.
Yesterday we gathered in the Kindergarten yard to celebrate and watch the “olders” from both the White Rose and the Red Rose Kindergarten classes join together with their new first-grade teacher and ceremonially walk over to the first-grade classroom.
The parents created an arch over the walkway and the new teacher, Miss H, led them under it.
Many of the children were all smiles, several were nervous, several were super goofy; mine was, for this moment at least, acting jaded when he saw me and Daddy. But I saw him scampering along with the rest of the children, clearly enjoying himself.
They crossed the campus to the first grade, little ducklings all in a row.
It’s exciting to see these kids growing and changing, some of whom we’ve known since they were babies. This group has been playing together for a long time. And for Ian and me, there are so many new friends to make!
We parents got to wait and visit with each other until the “rising first graders” returned. Of course, the current first graders aren’t actually ready to relinquish their classroom, and our kids came back to their yard and classrooms to finish out the week.
Lucas, at 11, is finishing up a glorious, fifth-grade year, what some call the “golden year” of the school-age child. He reveled in woodworking, learned to enjoy orchestra class and playing his violin, improved in all subjects, and ached all year for their study of the Greeks to begin and then soaked up every morsel of it once it did. He trained his body all year to compete in the Pentathlon, and has continued to do so since the big day. He is every day more independent and competent and it’s a both joy to see and a huge help in my life. I’ve been experiencing some nostalgia lately because I’ve been going through old photos and working on our end-of-year gift to his departing class teacher, our beloved Ms. D, who is retiring this year. My how these fifth-graders have changed!
And my son is eager for new, exciting experiences, more alone time, more time away from his little brother, and more responsibility (specifically when and only when he wants it). I am highly cognizant of this and am working to find him experiences that stretch his previous limits. I’m thinking of it as measured risk-taking.
And so, summertime is almost here. I can see it in all the children. They are boundless and expansive and loud, as if their spirits are no longer contained within their bodies. The teachers look both pleased and tired. The parents … well, there is a kind of “oh, I can’t wait for summer” on their lips or behind their eyes. And I kind of get it.
Now, in the interest of honest, full disclosure, I admit to feeling great trepidation about the coming 13 weeks of summer vacation. 13. 13 weeks. That’s a lot of days. I always feel this way at the end of the school year. The eagerness I felt for summer as a child is very different from how I feel now that I’m a parent. I have some excitement and daydreams and some wonderful plans for us, but I also know that it won’t be a huge bowl of cherries every day.
The boys will be engaged in any number of wonderful activities and play. Swim and summer camp and weekend camping. They will be blessed with the “gift of boredom” and plenty of nature time and unscheduled time. They will do chores. They will bicker and negotiate and hurt each other and cooperate—all of which is essential to both their growth as humans and their relationship as brothers.
We will make the most of it, the best we can. And we will learn so much. We will all soak up all that Summer has to give us, and we will level up.