A few days ago, I accompanied our firstborn to high school orientation. (I know! It shocked the heck out of me too, seeing as how he is only 4.)
I have never been in a hurry for our children to grow up. From my earliest memory, my career aspiration was “mom” and I woke up every single day of the first year of my firstborn’s life feeling like a lottery winner. I was so overjoyed to have a baby and so in love with him that I didn’t let him out of my sight for more than a few hours for the first 12 months. Yes, I was THAT mom.
Fortunately, I eventually loosened my grip on him long enough to let him attend preschool, and later elementary school. I had real reservations about middle school, but eventually acknowledged that he would go there, too.
I have had the date for high school orientation on my calendar for six weeks. I kept avoiding and ignoring it — as if by refusing to acknowledge its existence, I would never have to attend.
Didn’t work. The day came and we headed out.
It’s funny in a school district so small that the class sizes generally number under 100, I was seeing the same faces — and friends — many of whom I first met a decade earlier when we all gathered in the kindergarten classroom to learn about nap mats and snack time and how they would handle homesickness and tears.
Ten years older and marginally wiser, we were shuttled around the high school with very little comment from our student guides.
They made sure to show us where the office was (“if you get called down to the office, you will go here” ) but no effort to allow time to point out the cafeteria, find lockers, and we breezed past the library so fast it was just a blur. Makes me wonder what they know about this class that “you will get called down to the office” is priority on the tour?
I then enjoyed a scintillating 15 or so minutes where the guidance counselor, who seemed a lovely man, basically informed me that my life choice (English/Writing) was a negligible skill. Fortunately a friend was on hand to pat my knee and assure me that SHE appreciated my life skills — in between fits of laughter.
Finally, we were herded back to the auditorium for the all important “don’t download porn on the school’s computer” talk and went home. It definitely lacked the warm fuzzy feeling of that first orientation a decade before.
During all this my firstborn, my reserved child, the shy one, ditched me (like a boy his age should).
Ten years ago, we left kindergarten orientation. He had a brand new plastic nametag with his name, teacher, and bus number. I think there was also a sticker of a bug. We left hand in hand with clear instructions on how to handle his first day of kindergarten tears.
Yesterday, we left freshman orientation with no crayons, no glue, and a new computer. I walked with my friends while he peeled off, as a teenager should, to join his own group of friends. There was no need for a nametag, teacher, and bus number.
They lectured us on college, trade school and life skills. I learned about athletic eligibility and community service (the volunteer, not probationary, kind). There was a long lecture about handling the school’s computers, but in all the careful planning and hard work there was one important piece missing: how to handle my first day of high school tears.