As we drove up the long road for the last time yesterday, my youngest smiled, nodded her head and returned a simple, “Yep.”
“You gonna miss it?” I asked her.
“Sure,” she started, “I’ll miss my friends a lot.”
We have the unfortunate situation where my girls attend an elementary school that feeds three different Middle Schools and, ultimately, two different High Schools, so, when they say goodbye at the end of the day, for many it is goodbye.
“I’ll miss recess. I’ll miss being a Safety. I’ll miss my Teachers. But, I’m excited for Middle School. I’m a little bit nervous though.”
“A little bit nervous” for my daughter, by the way, translates to really, really nervous. As an 11-year-old she often speaks in raging hyperbole when talking about things like the size of a spider on her wall, the level of annoyance with her sister or how much I’ve embarrassed her by loudly singing 90’s R&B in the grocery store, but, when it’s how nervous or scared she is about something real, she tends to undersell it.
“What if I can’t open my locker? What if I can’t find my classes? What if GiGi and her friends all call me “Munchie”? What if I can’t get up an hour earlier? What if it’s hard? What if I don’t have any friends in my classes? Plus, I’m going have to remember six teacher’s names. That’s not easy!”
I assured her that I understood where she was coming from, but that I felt like she’d be OK. I pulled out the classic parent of siblings “Hey! If your Sister can do it…” trump card which always seems to make them feel better. I told her that it was OK to be nervous, but she’d be just fine. Look how great Elementary School went.
“Dad, Elementary School is easy. Don’t talk back to the Teacher. Don’t fight. Do your work. Be good at lunch and recess. Easy. Plus, I’ve been doing it most of my life. I’m pretty good at it.”
As we pulled up to the designated loading and unloading zone at the front of the school, we did our final “deplaning” checklist – which features a laundry list of “Got your…?” questions that cover lunch, homework, Safety Belt, etc. We gave one another our standard goodbyes, which changes every year, but currently features a simultaneous “catch you on the flip side!” She closed the door and I watched her smile and wade into a gaggle of friends as I started to pull away.
There is something special about Elementary School. All of the basics of math and English that they try to teach are really dwarfed by the actual life lessons. About responsibility. About working together. About relationships. About the beautiful simplicity of just being a kid. You don’t always realize it at the time, but nothing prepares you more for life than Elementary School. There’s something perfect about that. Something pure and uncomplicated. Something fundamental. Something…well… elementary.