Slipping Through My Fingers
My kid graduated fifth grade the other day. He'll be onto middle school next year. Apparently this is a big, fucking deal. There was a ceremony, a party, balloons and a photo booth. They practically threw a ticker-tape parade. Each fifth grader was called to receive their certificate in front of a hoard of iPhones, fabric mortarboards flopping on their little, grinning heads.
When school let out they had a procession. A damn procession. As the graduates exited school, they were showered with bubbles and confetti. I am assured that this is perfectly normal. I guess this is a thing now? Cause I'm pretty sure when I graduated from fifth grade, I cleaned out my desk and went straight home. My Mom maybe made me a grilled cheese and let me eat a popsicle. And then I was all like- "Yeah, summer!"
So I didn't expect to get too sentimental about this elementary school graduation. And guess what?
I cried anyway. Seriously. Gah. All the feels.
It took me awhile to figure out exactly why. It's not like I was so damn proud. Let's be real. If your kid can't graduate elementary school, you've got big problems. Your own reality-show-size problems. So what drives this overwhelming parade of sentimentality?
For me, it's the sense of time slipping through my fingers. I was holding him in my arms just the other day it seems, watching his newborn myopic eyes narrow and widen as he held me in his adoring gaze. Wasn't it just yesterday that I shook tears out of my eyes, wringing my hands with anxiety as he walked into school by himself for the first time? But it wasn't yesterday. It was an entire decade ago.
I looked away for a just a moment, and when I turned back around, my son was too tall to tuck under my chin.
In a rush of bittersweet sorrow, we come to truly understand that all of those moments will never be ours again. Sure, we know it. People remind us of it all the time. "It goes by so fast!" they say. You smile wanly and nod. And privately, you think "Thank God." It's not as if I'd go back and have those babies again. Not for a million fucking dollars. The years of sleep deprivation, the poopy diapers, entire weeks when I felt as if we lived at the doctor's office. No, thanks. Served my time.
But at events like these, I think parents pause for just a minute and let the grief of that loss wash over us. We remember the times we were terrified we'd really fucked up. That phone call from school with your kid sobbing hysterically in the background that made your heart drop to your feet. That midnight trip to the emergency room and the entire year when he had night terrors, waking gasping in the night and calling your name.
And yet here you are. On the threshold of the next thing. And your kid is alive and healthy and decidedly not fucked up.
I'm not sure I ever realized the extent to which ceremonies like these are really for parents. Parents who bite their tongues when they have to stay up doing a project until midnight that gets forgotten in the bottom of a backpack. Parents who play chauffeur everyday after school, to piano and soccer and back again. Parents who sit through hundreds of phonics books with terrible plots and worse illustrations just for the joy of seeing their kid learn to read.
In a way, when my son threw his hat into the air, I felt the same elation. Ten years and we managed to make it here, to a kid on the cusp of tweenhood. He's smart and sweet and while I don't deserve it, I'm going to celebrate the hell out of it.