Covering parenting and child development issues
“Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.” (Erma Bombeck)
Today is the last Friday of the school year. Next Friday, my daughter will no longer be a freshman. With one year of high school behind her, she’ll be one step closer to high school graduation. Not that I’m rushing her. This year has gone much too fast already.
Each June marks a turning point in our school-aged children’s lives. Elementary school kids leave behind a teacher - beloved to some, but not to others - and a particular combination of classmates that is unlikely to ever recombine in exactly the same way. Some do so with relief, others tearfully, signing autographs and tee shirts and bringing little treats for one another, and often for the significant adults in the building as well. Connections have been forged. Some will last, some will fade, some will fade away.
Middle school kids revert to their elementary roots at this time of year, and smart middle school teachers know this. More time is spent outside and in social pursuits that, during the rest of the school year, are limited to the halls and the cafeteria. Connections are paramount here, good-byes more blasé on the outside, emotions churning on the inside. It’s no longer cool to admit that you love school when you are a sixth or a seventh grader, at least not in the presence of your peers, and so when emotions and hormones collide and tears spill forth, excuses are made. Eighth graders, less jaded than they want the world to think they are, may be most guilty of these displays, but when emotions leak out unexpectedly, they’re easily blamed on the next big thing: high school.
I’m not sure what to expect from my sophomore-to-be as she closes out her year. Relief, certainly, that finals have ended, along with some triumph over no longer being at the bottom of the heap. Last weekend, she and her friend were trying to imagine the ascendancy of the junior class, and concluded that they weren’t up to the task. There’s less of a break at this level, as technology, sports and other activities extend the social network beyond school boundaries. Joined at the hip by the cell phones that remained in the off position in lockers at the middle school lest they be confiscated, these teens will be making plans before they’ve even left school grounds, blurring the line between school days and summer days.
For parents, too, changes loom. School year schedules give way to discarded alarm clocks for some, while others scramble to find camps and child care to fill the hours for kids too young to work summer jobs or stay home alone. Pool days, beach days and vacations beckon and everything seems to slow down for just a bit...until the back-to-school ads start in mid-July, and we unwillingly contemplate a return to the structure of the school year.
What does the end of the school year mean to your family? And what are your summer plans?