A few weeks ago, I stood on the front lawn at my son’s school for their Memorial Day celebration, listening to the principal play guitar and lead the students in the sweetest rendition of “This Land Is Your Land,” the flag flapping gently in the breeze. If you close your eyes and imagine a fairytale that takes place at a school, this is what it would look like. And like most fairytales, I didn’t want it to end.
Yet here we are. The credits are rolling. We’re onto the sequel. After six years in this picture-perfect little slice of elementary school paradise, they’re moving up to middle school. They’re totally ready. Lucky them.
At Max’s “Moving Up” ceremony two years ago, they marched the kindergartners in first. They were so tiny; I couldn’t remember Max and his friends ever being that little. By the time the fifth graders filed onto the stage, they looked like giants. It felt like an optical illusion… as if they had all sprouted up just for the occasion. I looked up at them and knew it was time for them to go. My heart ached. So did the rest of my body, as I tried to muffle every sob and reverse the flow of every tear in an effort to not bring shame upon my pre-teen. It hurt like crazy to think of him moving on.
Goodbyes are hard. They are also inevitable. I dreaded the end of this school year and all of Jaden’s “lasts” because I’d been so traumatized by Max’s… and this time, my child wasn’t the only one moving on. I am never going to chaperone a field trip or celebrate a holiday or birthday in a classroom again. I don’t know if the principal of the middle school sings and plays guitar; truth be told, I don’t even know what he looks like. For weeks leading up to Jaden’s last day of school, I literally wept every time I heard “A Million Dreams” because I knew that was the song the fifth graders would be singing. It felt like a conspiracy between Pink and the music teacher, and I couldn’t make it stop.
And yet, with all that worrying and all that build-up, when it actually happened, it really wasn’t so bad. I mean, I cried because that’s what I do, but it didn’t feel the same this time around. I thought it would have been exponentially worse, but it wasn’t. It was easier. And then I realized why. Unbeknownst to me, I had taken steps to prepare for this day exactly two years earlier. It was so hard that first time… ugly, really… but I had done it. I had practiced.
Tomorrow, many of you will be saying good-bye to your child for the first time. It might be hard. You might feel overwhelmed. I promise that you will get through it. We’ll help you get through it. Camp is a wonderful place for first good-byes, in the company of parents, campers and counselors who’ve done it before. When we talk about our Bauercrest family, this is who we mean. This is where it starts.
You’ve probably heard us say more than once that overnight camp is one of the most incredible gifts a parent can give a child. You’re showing him that you believe in him, and that amazing things are waiting just beyond his comfort zone. It may not seem like it today or even tomorrow, but these good-byes are a huge part of that gift. And I have every reason to believe that one day… maybe when we’re setting up a freshman dorm room, or a first apartment, or walking down an aisle… we’re all going to be really glad we practiced.
One more sleep… can’t wait!!!