My son finishes elementary school this week. Six years ago, I cried as I sent him through those doors and down the hall into a classroom with a wonderful woman who took him under her wing and taught him everything he needed to know about getting along in the world.
Back then, he was waist high and when he smiled, his cheeks were still round with baby fat. His chubby hands grasped a pencil the right way to practice letters and write sentences about field trips, his hermit crab, and how much he loved his family. I used to smile at his primitive spelling and stick-figure crayon drawings, filing every writing away to brighten up a later day.
He told me stories of the pill bugs that escaped the classrooms and were found all over the school. Or the boy who put his foot in the toilet in the bathroom.
He moved on down the hall. He made new friends. He struggled. He discovered the joy of a really good book. He learned that he loved math and science and that all someone had to do was talk about it and he absorbed it like a sponge. He learned that sometimes he had to work hard at something and it wasn’t always easy. And even if he threw his pencil across the room and broke it, even if he said a cuss word in the process, his mother loved him anyway.
He learned that sometimes his mother said a cuss word in the process too. Damn homework.
He told me stories about the kid who hid under his desk every day and the teacher who chased them on the playground at recess as they laughed and screamed.
As he moved on down the big kid hall, he learned that sometimes kids are mean. He learned that he didn’t want to be the bad guy, but he didn’t want rocks thrown at him either. He can’t always be a pleaser. Sometimes friends aren’t good at their job. Sometimes he found they could make him feel bad about himself, like when he got new glasses. Sometimes friends challenged him though. If they read a book, he wanted to read it too. He discovered a love for J.R.R. Tolkien and Roald Dahl.
He told me stories about the boys’ bathroom and the boy who licked the urinal. He told me all about the first overnight field trip he went on—he had the time of his life while I stayed home unable to breathe.
Now in fifth grade, he jokes with his teachers. He doesn’t need to be coddled. He does his homework in his room and I see it only when he needs help or when it is returned home graded. His writings are about fighters and his friends, no longer sappy and sweet. He takes pleasure in trying to teach me new math lessons he has learned, thinking he’ll stump me. And he has.
He tells me stories about kickball and monkey ball and the things I would not believe the boys do at lunch. He tells me about the science experiments with tea bags and the mock stock exchange they’re doing in math that he loves.
Now in the last week of his elementary school career, he walks down the hall confident, smiling, knowing many friends. He stands at my shoulders, lean and broad, baby fat long gone.
Six years ago when he entered that school, he was a quiet, funny, scared kid. When he walks out those doors for the last time, I’ll still recognize that little boy somewhere inside. But I couldn’t be more proud of the countless ways he’s grown.
33 responses to “Elementary School: Six Years of Growth”
this was so nice to read it actually reminded me how much I miss blogging.
Thanks. It has been quite a while for me too. And it couldn’t be a busier week! Sometimes we just need inspiration. 😉
yea that’s definitely true
Such a sweet post. You are raising a wonderful young man.
He’s kinda cool.
Lovely post. And a lovely note, so precious.
He slipped that note into my hand when I came into his classroom to volunteer. Every time I came in, he hardly looked in my direction. Never spoke a word to me really. But one day he gave me that note all folded up. It meant the world to me.
Oh, even more precious!
Such a sweet sweet post. I cant wait to get to that stage with my sons. I have 3 sons, all under the age of 4. The volume of homework i have ahead of me is enormous! Whew!
It does get better. Just remember that it is THEIR homework and you will get to a point when they will do it alone. You will! And a point when you can no longer help them because you don’t understand it, which is depressing. 😉 Sending good vibes your way.
The years really do pass in a series of blinks, don’t they? This past year I taught my good friend’s son freshman English. He was only in the second grade when I started teaching! And my niece that came along while I was in high school is now a fellow teacher. The mementos from those snatches in time are priceless!
When you measure time by the growth of a child, it goes by extraordinarily fast.
This brought tears to my eyes. What a proud moment for you both
Sorry–and thanks! It really is amazing when you look back through these young years and see how much they’ve changed. Pretty cool.
Once again, your blog post made me cry. It’s both thrilling and heart-wrenching to watch them grow up…. 🙂
Sorry, Karen! Thank goodness for those thrilling parts, right? Thank goodness my son is excited about middle school or I’d be a super mess right now–even more than I am and will be on Friday. They plan to show a slideshow of the kids’ six years at the school during a ceremony for parents. Currently I cry just thinking about that.
Oh, this is just beautiful! As a fifth grade teacher, I share your amazement at how much children grow and learn and stretch themselves. Its like a miracle to watch it all unfold!
I had a feeling you would have some thoughts. Thank you! You know, every year, I watch as the fifth graders leave on the last day. They’re so excited and the staff always talk about how hard it is to see the kids go. All year as I’ve seen these kids I’ve known since kindergarten, I’ve just been amazed at how tall and beautiful and funny and well-spoken they are. I know they still have a long way to go, but elementary school is a special place, close to my heart.
You’re better prepared than me. My two are heading into 3rd and 1st grade and I’m not pleased. Why can’t they fail a couple times?
Somehow, some way, my kids have prepared me. They are ready so I have to be. Fifth grade is way cool. The kids are confident and a little cocky because they’re the oldest. They know the ropes so they fall into a routine quickly. It’s easy. And I know next year will probably not be!
It sounds like elementary school has been a great growing experience for him. He sounds like a regular kid who is ready to move forward. Good luck to him and you as he does so.
P.S. Damn Homework!
Thanks, Larry. He really is ready. And that’s great because I really am not. But it’s helping me cope!
ahhh…time. Mother’s biggest boon and bane
this is beautiful. Good luck to you both.
Your words brought tears to my eyes. My son’s last day at elementary school is tomorrow. Such a bittersweet time!
My older boy is still in the middle of it all, being in year 4. But when I see pictures of his first year, and when I look at him now, I feel the same as you do. What a development, what a change. I am a very proud mum, too. 🙂 (And a thankful one, for he also had and has wonderful teachers!)
awh such a sweet post, I am about to take my oldest daughter to “school” at the age of 3 this fall. I can’t wait to have memories like those you have of the notes but at the same time … Time is going too quickly and I want to pause and keep my girls at these ages (3years old and 8 months). Can’t wait to read more.
Such a lovely post. I can relate to this milestone as I have twins starting high school this fall. I look forward to reading more.
My baby girls is currently in her last year for elementary school! Already I am not as cool, am no longer requested to come eat luck, and passed over in favor of time with her friends! So sad! As a mother to kids ages 27,24,11,and 7 I can tell you it only gets worse. However, when they get in their mid-twenties you become friends so that is nice….just not as wonderful as those early years when all they needed is you!
Reblogged this on dilemmanatalie and commented:
Nini is going to elementary school next year. It’s time for me to let her go and grow independently.
This one tugs at my heartstrings. I am at the beginning now, with my eldest just starting preschool last week. He is so innocent and excited and fresh-faced that it makes my heart ache and burst with pride at the same time. I am so excited for the future, but at the same time want to hang onto these moments forever.
Elementary school is a special place. Close friendships are made, between the kids and parents. It’s so different when you leave. I love the feeling of belonging we have at our elementary school, and I like the independence my son has at his middle school. It’s all bittersweet. Enjoy it while you have it. It’s so precious!