The Last Game

Brad Paisley’s Last Time for Everything reminds his fans of all those moments in their youth that will never happen again for them. A sad nostalgia for their glory days.

And on the day my eighth grader played his last soccer game with the friends he’s played with his entire life before they split off into various high schools, the song kept playing in my head. He may not ever play again in this world of “cut” high school sports.

But I find that life is funny and filled with surprises.

Yesterday, before heading off to his game, I found myself doing a few things that, at one point years ago, I thought I had done for the last time too. At 7am, I was in the basement of our school library with his robotics club making a poster with glittery letters. Was the last time I did that in middle school?

At 1:00, I was learning a new song in my piano lesson. Until two years ago, I last played when I was 18.

Then in a first time long after I should have had my last time, I blew my whistle coaching fourth grade boys’ basketball (which I have never played, but wanted to).

A few weekends ago, I roomed with my college roommate, making it, after almost thirty years, the new last time.

So, as I drove to my son’s last soccer game, I was less sad for him. He too will have fun with life’s surprises… his next times.

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How Do You Explain….

How do you explain to an introverted ninth grader that the best part of high school doesn’t happen in the classroom? That the school only really comes to life after the last bell rings.

Actors running lines for the fall play. The hammers of set-building. Click-click-click of cleats running through the hall to practice. Cheerleaders shouting. Choirs singing. Posters being illustrated for the next dance. Marching band trumpets blaring and that deep drumbeat echoing across the field in through the windows. Teams tinkering with robots, debating politics, inventing headlines for the school newspaper.

Just stay. Peek in the room. Pick something. Anything. Add to the noise.

Because after school, in those rooms or on that stage, they will be the first to know your name. To drag you to lunch tomorrow. To make this new school feel more like home.

First Two Days of High School

When he started at his last school, he was four, and his three-year-old brother was in class with him – a two-year preschool.

I walked him in every day. I waited until the teacher hugged him or shook his hand or said good morning. I volunteered in the classroom with other moms – for a number of us, it was our first or only. And we have been laughing, encouraging, comparing notes ever since.

But at this new school – high school – he forges his own path. No mom. No little brother fingerpainting at the next easel. Only one known friend among 500 in his class. We both know it would look silly for me to walk him in. I don’t know his teachers, and they haven’t watched him grow up. Don’t yet know his slow-to-reveal humor and wonderful personality.

His brother asked to come yesterday when I picked him up after his first day. “It feels weird that I’ve never even seen his school.”

And when our high schooler got out of the car on the morning of Day 2, he sighed, “I feel a little sad.”

Me too, sweetie. But you get stronger, more impressive every day. You’re going to do great!

It’s Puberty, Mom

On Saturday night, my fourteen year old son was tugging gently at his hair when I peeked into his room to say goodnight, something he has done since infancy to soothe himself. It’s a sign that he is deep in thought, worried, chewing on something that happened that day or the day before.

I asked what was up.

“I’m socially awkward.”

On Friday, the last of his eighth grade class found out where they got into high school. Although he has known since Thanksgiving, it must have hit him suddenly that change is coming. I received two phone calls and an email from his teachers that day saying he was distracted, and could I please have him finish his assignments over the weekend.

… so the hair tugging on Saturday made sense.

“And no one thinks I’m funny.”

I held back a laugh. He is funny. Maybe just not 8th grade boy funny.

On Monday afternoon, I received a request from him for a free workout app. This from a kid who dreads exercise.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“I’m feeling self-conscious.”

I approved the download, and he did a workout before dinner, bragging about the number of squats and sit-ups he did. Then before bed, “Can you start waking me up early?”

“Really?”

“I want to work out, and I should shower before school. And can I try a fried egg for breakfast? I hear they’re really good for you.”

“I’m proud of you,” I hugged him.

“It’s puberty, mom. It sucks.”

Serious, Seriously?

On Monday, my son’s Spanish teacher emailed me to let me know that he was upset. He had forgotten about a quiz scheduled for that day, even though it was posted on her website and announced in class.

On Tuesday, he went to Freshman Registration Night at the high school he plans to attend next year. His schedule is going to be really tough. So while his teacher had recommended Spanish III, I suggested taking Spanish II, so he isn’t slammed from all sides.

Nope. “I should take Spanish III.”

“I don’t know,” I shook my head, imagining another four years of nagging and checking up on him.

“Mom, it’s time I took school seriously.”

Well, you can’t argue with that… until an hour later when I received a late-night, bail-out email from his Social Studies teacher, saying that he “probably knows this, and has yet to start… but please remind him to…”

“Aw man, I forgot!”

He didn’t even remember that it was his turn to bring snack today. How can you be a serious student when you can’t even remember snack?!

An 8th Grade Boy Applying to High Schools

When told that one of the schools he is considering does not have a robust college guidance program, he said, “That’s okay. I already know I’m not allowed to go to Yale or Duke.”

Seriously?

During a mock interview with his principal, when asked what challenges him, he said “reading.” The principal tried to get him to explain why. “Are you a slow reader?” “No.” “Is it hard to remember everything?” “No.” “Is it that…” “It’s just that when I open a book, I get bored.”

Sir, can you forget he said that when you write his recommendation?

When he came out of his first high school visit, and I asked if he could see himself there, he grinned, “I could go to Chipotle for lunch every single day!”

Then when he met two Admissions Directors a second time, he talked to one about their amazing French fries and the other about their delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Is it really going to come down to the snacks?

When one Director of Admissions asked 50 kids at Info Night what they wanted most out of high school, he was the only one to raise his hand, “I want it to be fun.”

And when he visited another school, he leaned into me as we approached the entrance as if he needed my support to stand up. “I’m nervous. I’m nervous. I’m nervous. I don’t want to do this.” It broke my heart to leave him. But when I picked him up, he exploded with excitement, “If I was going to build a school, it would be exactly like this.”

“Any questions, young man?”

Nope. Apparently, he’s got it all figured out.

An Empty Library

My son is looking at high schools. He has visited two of five schools so far, and it strikes me with each visit that what excites him most makes me wary.

After the first: “I could go to Chipotle every single day for lunch!”

And…“everyone carries their phones around everywhere, even into class!”

After the second: “I only saw one device that wasn’t an Apple product!”

And… “no one uses their lockers because there are no textbooks. They’re totally digital!”

And then when I walked into the old library, there wasn’t a single book. The tour guide said, ”When we realized that only three books were checked out one entire year, we turned the library into a resource center.”

Schools with no books. Makes me sad.