Sometime around when my son was in the fourth grade, I made the mistake of blinking. Now he’s a senior in high school.
Whenever I post pictures of my kids on Facebook, a longtime friend will see how big my kids are getting and ask, “How the heck did this happen?” Answer: I have no idea. Because I was a teen in the 1980s, I am legally obligated to quote from a John Hughes movie in this post: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That’s Ferris Bueller, for the two of you who don’t know.
I am trying to look around. It’s hard when you have a life outside of that one kid’s to be present for all his milestones. Sometimes I am so caught up in the day-to-day (my dad likes to say that the days drag on but the years fly by) that I’m not even aware of a milestone slipping by. When my son finished grade school, my other two kids were still there, so there wasn’t a “we’ll never walk these halls again” moment. Same with preschool, middle school, etc. Now our middle child, the patient one, is a freshman. A freshman! And as a matter of fact, our youngest (light of our lives) is in her last year of grade school. (Look for my “We’ll Never Walk These Halls Again” blog post in May.)
I realize that it’s the beginning of the school year and I am already getting all maudlin about the end of it. I’ll try to “Be Here Now,” as George Harrison sang (he cribbed that title from Ram Dass). George says, “The mind that wants to wander ’round a corner is an unwise mind.”
The thing is, my kids seem to like high school. It makes no sense to me. My lovely wife Jen certainly enjoyed it. I hated high school.
What exactly did I hate about high school? If you say “everything,” you’d be mostly right. (I am exaggerating, of course. The chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria were a particular highlight.) I did meet Jen in high school, so there’s that. But we started dating once I went away to college. I spent most of my school days doing one of three things:
- Avoiding bullies
One of them was a career-preparation activity. One of them was a life-preservation activity. I should point out here that bullying was seen in a different light back in the day. There was more of a “kids will be kids, there’s not much we can do about it” attitude. It was like Lord of the Flies in the boys’ locker room. If you really want to get an idea for what life was like at my high school, watch any John Hughes movie. I always imagined myself like Jake Ryan in “Sixteen Candles.” Pretty sure I was closer to the Anthony Michael Hall geek. Strangely, I loved my big suburban high school and getting lost among the 3,200 kids who roamed the halls. The Beach Boys put it this way: “Now what’s the matter buddy, ain’t you heard of my school? It’s number one in the state…”
But enough about my miserable existence before the halcyon days of college. As for what the kids seem to like, certainly they are involving themselves in school way more than I did. Already, the freshman is in the art club, drama club, color guard, band…am I missing something? Probably. I’ll let you know the next time I’m driving her somewhere in the minivan. The senior is running cross country and soccer simultaneously. (Not literally simultaneously; that would look strange. He alternates from one practice to another.) They are packing their schedules this fall.
I’m enjoying attending their big events, knowing we might not pass this way again: the cross-country meets, the soccer games (Senior Night is only a month away), color guard performing in the football halftime spectacles. I’m trying to be present when I’m with these kids, and especially this boy before he is off to college in (yikes!) less than a year.
In Counting Crows’ “A Long December,” Adam Duritz sings, “I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass.” That’s me, pretty much, for the next 9 months. And then the 3 years after that for my middle child. And then the 4 more for our youngest…