Sending your kids off to middle school causes such mixed emotions. In a few short months, I am sending my oldest son into the wilds of 6th grade. I am nostalgic that my first baby is old enough to be making this transition. I keep looking at baby pictures and thinking, “how did we get here?” I am proud of the young man that he is becoming, and excited to see how he continues to grow socially, academically, and athletically. I am scared out of my mind that he will be exposed to social media, mean kids, and will have to make good choices in the face of others making poor choices. I am hopeful that we have given him the tools he needs to make those good choices…I hope! I am NOT prepared to start the discussions about boyfriends and girlfriends! I am in disbelief that we need to start educating about sex, drugs, and the internet. So many different thoughts and emotions swirl around in my brain as I think about the day I will send him off on the bus to middle school. But I also know, on some level, that it’s all going to be OK. Middle school is tough – it’s the age when a lot is happening developmentally: puberty, social development, a budding sense of independence, and some insecurities. But, we all made it through, and I know that my son will make it through, and I think (I hope), he will thrive. I’m going to focus on keeping the lines of communication open, knowing where he is, knowing who his friends are, and pushing off the purchase of a phone as long as I can! So, somehow, it will all be OK and I know we will survive!
I distinctly remember standing in the kindergarten line with my oldest daughter and looking over at those ‘monstrosities” that were the 5th graders in their lines. At the time, I remember thinking how absurd it would be to have a child THAT old. Fast forward almost 6 years, and my baby is now that “big kid on the block.”
This is when almost every parenting cliché rang true for me. “Don’t blink.” “Time flies.” “She’ll be old before you know it.” Guess what? ALL TRUE! Maybe because she’s my first-born and this is our first time going through this milestone, but this transition to middle school signifies more than just passing up to the next grade. It means I’m getting older (ugh). It means my babies are no longer really babies. It means having to have really difficult discussions about really uncomfortable topics. I think many will agree that this is when the tough parenting actually begins.
While I have no expectations of a perfectly smooth ride through the next few years, I do know that we’ll weather this change together, and hopefully, come out of it on the other side relatively unscathed (ZERO chance!).
For now, I’m going to enjoy my summer with my “still-somewhat-an-elementary-schooler,” and try to focus on the now, instead of the what-will-be.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I sat down with our son’s elementary special education team for the last time. Six years of conferences, emails, phone calls & texts, all culminating in this one last encounter: his middle school transition meeting. As I sat across the table from these people, I struggled to keep my emotions in check. These educators have come to know him as well, or even better in certain situations than his own parents. They have supported him, strengthened him, challenged him and loved him over the course of his elementary education more than we could ever have imagined or hoped for. They saw him through the years of fire drill anxiety, sensory issues, medication adjustments and times when he would flat out shut down. They were on the floors, under the desks, in the tents, right by his side from day 1. And now, due to their unwavering support, he is ready for middle school. Like, actually ready. Yes, he is nervous and unsure. Yes, he is sad about leaving some of his friends and the teachers he has come to love. But, fundamentally, he is ready.
Me, on the other hand. Ugh. How do you walk away from these amazing people who worked with you tirelessly to make your child the best version of himself? Who texted you in the morning to check on their buddy and made house visits to help get him out the door during that difficult patch in 3rd grade. Who emailed you multiple times a day just so you knew he was having a good morning. Who spent their own time and money to buy him little treats as incentive to keep him on task. Who communicated openly and effortlessly with his private therapist to ensure all parties were informed and the best decisions were being made on his behalf. Who pulled out all the stops to get him the one-on-one para he so desperately needed, that, in turn, got him where he is today. They know our son: how he learns, his likes, his dislikes, his stressors, his motivators. And now we leave them. We start over with a brand new team in a brand new school. To say I’ve been a ball of emotions would be an understatement.
As I left that meeting and got into my car, I unglued. These people have become family; how will we ever thank them? Will they ever know how much they have truly done for us and mean to us? Then, as often happens, a song came on the radio that snapped me back to reality. “Carry On” by Fun. I couldn’t believe I was hearing it at that time, in that moment. That same exact song had significant meaning to me when our daughter was leaving the hospital after her 7 month long treatment for Leukemia over 6 years ago. I struggled with the same emotions then- leaving the loving team that had made her whole again. I hadn’t heard the song in years, much less on the radio. I stopped and listened to the famous line that, once again, resonated so deeply:
“May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground, Carry on. Carry on, carry on”
Just as those doctors and nurses blessed us with the opportunity to take our little girl home to survive and thrive, cancer-free, our son’s team has prepared him to move on to the next chapter that awaits him.
And he goes knowing that he is ready and that he was loved.
To the angel above who sent me the gift of that song, at that moment, thank you.
Now, we all carry on.