Life with Liz: Wrapping up the school year
Just like that, the end of the school year is upon us. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it back in March, and now, just like that, I’m three loads of laundry away from not having to wash and iron school uniforms for three glorious months. So, it’s time for my annual recap of our school year.
I think I’m going to miss this school year a lot. There have been a few years that I’ve been happy to close the door on and put behind us, but this one could last another week or two. All the end-of-the-year programs, concerts, award ceremonies and recitals seem a little bittersweet to me this year. Part of it is that by the time this column runs, I will officially be the mother of a real, live teenager. Another part of it is that my “baby boy” will be leaving elementary school and heading off to middle school, and it didn’t hit me until a week ago that a lot of his recent activities are “the last one” that he’ll be attending. And, still another part of it is when I forgot to pack my fancy heels for a family wedding, E offered to run back into the house for them and came out WEARING them. They weren’t a perfect fit, but they weren’t falling off her feet either.
A had a great year and has laid down a good foundation for a strong finish to middle school next year. This was the year that he really started to work on his independence. I should say “we” started to work on it, because he was more than ready to do his own thing. I was the one who needed to stop hovering and back off. One of the reasons that it was so hard for me to do that is because this year is when I really started to notice that A has inherited a lot of my personality. A new club to join, a new sport to try, a new activity to participate? Sign him (and me) up! Does it matter that we have five other activities on our plate? NO! We’ll juggle all the balls.
My only two rules were that he had to honor his commitments, or be responsible enough to work with his coaches, advisers and teachers to find a balance, and his grades could not suffer. Oddly enough, the more he had on his plate, the better his grades became. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s more aware of managing his time or if it’s because he doesn’t want to take a chance on missing out on any of his beloved activities, but busy seems to agree with him.
Since G transferred schools last year, fourth grade was kind of his year to put down some roots and grow, and fifth grade was his year to bloom. Again, I think there were a lot of reasons for it. First, his big brother was out of the picture completely, and one of the fifth-grade teachers had changed since A went through, so the opportunities to be compared were few and far between. G always does better when someone isn’t mistakenly calling him A. Both of his teachers are among some of my favorite people in the world, and both appealed to different parts of his personality. Mrs. F’s playful nature went right along with G’s practical joker mentality, and he simply enjoyed being a part of her class, and he never wanted to let her down. Mrs. B’s rigorous academic standards challenged him and pushed him back into being the responsible good student that he needed to be.
Mrs. B also brought out a love of and an ability to write that I never knew G had. From pen pal letters to essays, G can whip out four to five paragraphs in no time flat, and other than his penmanship, they’re incredibly enjoyable to read. I always assumed that A might follow in my footsteps someday, but now I’m leaning toward G as my literary heir apparent. He still swears that he will never enjoy reading books, but maybe he’ll write them instead.
I remember my dad telling me that when he was in school, because he was bigger than most kids his age, he sometimes defaulted into the role of leader, or was automatically appointed leader by the teachers. It wasn’t always a role that he wanted, but it was a role that he excelled at. This year, I saw something similar happen to G. Like it or not, he’s a good head taller than most of his peers, so when you look at a bunch of them together, he literally sticks out. Quite a few times this year, he came home with the statement, “I don’t know why they picked me, but …” and there was a new team to lead or an activity to direct, and he rose to the occasion.
Next year, he’ll be back at the bottom of the pack at the middle school, but his year as the literal “big man on campus” has been a fun one.
And then, I get to E. If any of them could get a do over this year, I wish it could be her. While her grades were never bad, it seemed like every marking period, a new subject would throw her off her game. We’d work super hard to bring that subject up to snuff and then the next marking period another subject would cycle through the same pattern. Like it or not, we started to get into the “girl drama.” I was hoping this would hold off until middle school, but oh no. We were right in the middle of, and also creating and adding to, the “girl drama.” I hate to assign such a sexist name to it, but I found myself saying, “the boys never did this stuff,” too many times, and so it has become “girl drama.”
I keep reminding myself that I went through all this stuff, too, and somehow managed to survive, so she’ll be fine. Eventually. But I’ve also come to realize how pointless it is, and my patience for it is limited. Telling her to “get over it” is not helpful to her, though, so we’ll just keep riding that roller coaster until she figures it out.
So, that’s a wrap on grades 3, 5 and 7, and we’re onward and upward to grades 4, 6 and 8. First, however, a brief stop for summer, baseball games under the lights, campfires, s’mores, freeze pops, Scout camp and lazy days at the pool. I can’t wait.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.