Next week is the last week of school around here, and there’s the usual small storm of activity and year-end school events. Tomorrow night, we will attend Boy’s Suzuki concert at school, where he will stand in the back row and play three songs on the violin with his classmates. I feel very lucky that our school sponsors such a great music program. He has two years of instruction behind him now, and he is proud of what he has learned and wants to continue if we move somewhere else.
The songs they learn are simple and uncomplicated. The notes are pure and clear. The earnest look of trying, of effort, on the students’ faces is sweet and heart-twisting. Last year, the 3rd graders seemed so far ahead of the 2nd graders. So this year, now that Boy is in 3rd grade, I can’t wait to hear the difference and how far he has come.
Girl is finishing 1st grade, and I haven’t yet wrapped my mind around her new 2nd grade-ness. Second grade seems like a big girl year, so much older than 1st, even though it’s just one year ahead. She is more capable and confident than she was going into this school year. I love seeing her at school, in her class or in the cafeteria, so sure of herself and where she should go and how to navigate her way from one place to the next.
It’s what we hope for, isn’t it?
Fourth grade next year for Boy, which sounds impossible. How is it possible that his 8 pounds, 9 ounces turned into a fourth grader? But I hear that the science experiments start to get really interesting in 4th grade (the tables at the Science Showcase last week clued me in on that). Since his interest in science and invention is boundless, I know he will be excited to move on to more challenging projects.
This year, especially, I feel relieved that the end of school is in sight. There are big changes ahead for us, and I’m ready to get on with it. But there’s something else, too. I feel like I can exhale now, like I also just moved up a grade. I swear to the gods, I don’t know how I managed to steer Boy and Girl through one more year of school without major event. In fact, aside from the bajillion visits Girl made to the nurse’s office, the two of them managed to stay off the trouble radar. They’re good kids, and I imagine they behave better at school than they do at home.
(I’m thinking of setting aside a room in the next house and calling it The Principal’s Office. I’m taking applications for someone to sit in there, behind a desk maybe, after school every day and on weekends. You won’t have to do much, and you can read magazines and even blog, but the implied threat could be a great addition to my parenting arsenal.)
If the school gave me a parent report card, I wouldn’t expect to see an A for effort . Sometimes, not even a B.
Just last week, I forgot for three days in a row that they both needed a boost in their lunch money accounts. For three days, they came home with a lunch stamp on the backs of their hands. And I still forgot. I wrote a note in big letters (Lunch Money!) and put it on my desk. And I still forgot. (They had enough to buy lunch those days, but the coffers were darn close to empty.)
I forgot sometimes to track down school library books, even though every Friday is library day. Every single Friday. No surprise. And I still forgot.
Sure, I kept the school machinery running well enough. Homework, worksheets, Wednesday envelopes, Friday folder, signed reading sheets, no tardies, clean socks, clean underwear, making sure everyone wore underwear (you’d be surprised at the rate of willingly going commando around here).
But I kept things running just well enough, some weeks.
One of the best parts about school, aside from learning (of course), is that sense of getting another chance to get it right. As a student, and for me as a parent. There’s a lot to be said for a clean slate. But there’s also something great about knowing the ropes, in knowing the routine and the expectations. Both are necessary to keep things moving smoothly along, at school and at home. And still, sometimes things get bumpy. I’m still learning.
This evening I drove past the school on my way home. There were just a couple of cars in the parking lot, and it looked like it will in a few weeks. Deserted. Full of waiting.
I could almost hear the daytime sounds that move through the air when school is in session. The laughter. The creak of swings. The whump of a classroom door closing. A voice over the P.A. system telling so-and-so to come to the office or to return to class. The breeze sending leaves skittering across the sidewalk when everyone is in class and the courtyard is quiet.
All of these sounds together make their own kind of music, and that music carries us forward into summer and into the next year. It’s a song I know, and one that my kids know now, and there’s safety and confidence in finding that I can hum along. I know they can, they know it so well, and it reassures me as much as it tears at my heart.
Still, the music is simple and uncomplicated. The notes are pure and clear.
We move on.