Last week, as I walked down the steps of the local high school, the halls all quiet for now, I surprised myself by tearing up. I haven’t spent a lot of time in this school, not like the time spent in elementary schools, but I know it holds memories of my sons and my daughter, and now here we are, at the beginning of the end. My girl, my baby, the last one, you see, starts her first day of her last year of high school today, and it sends me edging closer and closer to that final moment of this stage of parenting.
It ends soon.
I’m supposed to be rejoicing, and in many ways I am, because I’m proud of my children and always excited about their lives (and it HAS been a big year), but I’m also balking at the idea. Rejoice? Over the end of this beautiful time in my life? Who sits inside the bubble of something wonderful and says, “This has to end!”? Not me.
Some laugh and tell me I’m being too dramatic or that I need to get over it, but sometimes I sit across the table of another mother and I know she gets it. We get choked on the words as we try to express excitement. And then we laugh because we see that we aren’t alone in this weird transitional phase, this letting go, whether it’s the first baby or the last.
On this first day of school, this first day of the last year — the last of my children in their high school years — I really am excited for the year ahead, but I know it will be brief, flying by through a flurry of color guard practices, football games, carpool* (only for a brief time, though, since driver’s license and car are right around the corner too), and flying out the door each morning. Before I know it, all who love this girl will be sitting together in a row, anticipating the end of the alphabet so we can see the baby walk across the stage, and then onward we will fly, on and on and on, going wherever this breeze of life takes her.
But for now, I listen to one of the last mornings of her getting her hair just right in the bathroom, see her lean into the mirror to apply her mascara, and breathe in echoes of the last 13 years of school mornings. It ends soon, but today I’m holding on.
*Truth in Advertising: I loathe carpool.