Wasn’t it just September, and we hurried to take our traditional First Day pictures before leaving for school?
Yesterday brought this year to a close. Rising 4th and 1st graders now, J and O seem so much older than they did just ten months ago. Last night, for the last time ever, I washed and put away the mismatched pillowcases both boys used in PK and K for their daily rest times. Oh, the years.
During the slow pull out of the school parking lot yesterday, as we waved goodbye to friends and teachers, I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw two deeply sad kids. Jack was especially blue, and cried intermittently throughout lunch and even while solving the new 4x4 Rubik's cube I surprised him with. The tears stopped at the orthodontist's office which is, and I'm absolutely serious, one of his favorite destinations. And then they resumed once home.
I held him tight, and let the water fall. I think the world needs more in the way of boys who cry because they had a great third grade year and can't imagine it being over. Who feel the tug of leaving amazing teachers behind, who are heartbroken over a best friend moving away. Who struggle with their emotions, many of which they don't yet understand. Who let those feelings flow rather than pack them away.
And I think the world needs more in the way of people who let them do just that. Without judgment.
Even when Jack expresses inner turmoil in sub-optimal ways, I recognize in it the difficult process of growing up and try to appreciate it as such. He is like me in so many ways- sensitive, emotional, and in possession of a mind that rarely stops. It wasn't easy for me to forge my way through elementary and middle school, and I feel so grateful that he is having an infinitely happier and simpler time of it.
The advancing army of hormones is on his horizon, as are new teachers and greater expectations from them. All of that is hard, even for the most laissez-faire children, and so when I see him struggle and rage and crumble and tire, I get it. Even when it annoys and exhausts me.
I believe that the traits in our children we find most challenging (in either a difficult or irritating way) are often those we like least about or struggle most with in ourselves. My moodiness and the years it took me to see the glass as half full wore on others and made me question my worth.
I see in Jack now a familiar mercurialism and a fatalistic fear when something feels hard. If he's good at it or inspired and curious, forget it. He's golden. But if he doubts himself or doesn't enjoy the task at hand or meets with more than a modicum of frustration, he erects a wall that even a mighty tsunami would have trouble breaching.
Hamstrung by dramatic hormone swings, I am still moody but work mightily to rein it in. I no longer fear much of anything really. Years making it on my own in New York largely cured me of worrying about whether or not I could do something; indeed, those years made me fearless in a wonderful way.
Without individualism and faith in others, we have little, in my opinion. There is plenty of room for introverts and extroverts, for even-keelers and roller coasters, for innately sunny folks and those who naturally skew towards the gray. The world needs all of these types as well as an acceptance of them.
And so as my boy processed his sadness, I tried my best to let him. To show him how he might better handle his emotional swings, to gently remind him that taking things out on others isn't usually the way to go, to be there with him to bear witness and support, to reminisce over all the good that causes the pain but also makes it worth it.