Sorry for the delay in getting these up today! Two tug-at-the-heart entries [check that, three, with a late entry from Miranda added!] this week for “graduate”, and Cathy Coley, the spotlight is yours; what a beautiful reflection. Well done, Mama Cathy!
I‘ve spent so much time thinking how odd it is that K will be starting high school next year, that the entire concept that he’s graduating middle school has completely by-passed any mental space I have leftover after S’s day-to-day functioning and Baby C’s needs. That’s what I get for having one independent kid. Poor guy, I’m so busy handling the others and musing about his future that I completely miss his present. We’ve been discussing college options since he was four, but I haven’t even bought a sport coat that’ll fit him for three weeks before his arms hang like ape arms out of the sleeves. I just know the moment he walks across the stage to shake hands with the principal is going to hit me like an oncoming Mac truck. I’m certain to burst into a blubbering sobs because I have given myself absolutely no emotional preparation for this. It was just last week that his graduation even made an appearance on the horizon in my head.
This is going to be big – mondo! This is my first child’s first graduation experience since preschool. I hate to say it, but I can’t recall a preschool graduation per se. I think I remember an end of year party. I asked him, and he doesn’t remember it either. I don’t think there are any pictures. What happened? That’s a real shame. I don’t think his class had one for kindergarten and I moved him from a K-6 school to a district with a middle school starting in 6th grade at the end of his 5th grade year. He’s been ripped off.
I don’t know how he flies under my radar so much in an average day of our lives. I am pre-occupied with finishing the manuscript, and with his younger brother and sister. He’s pretty quiet and keeps to himself a lot. Mostly he’s reached an age and gathered friends in the neighborhood so that his primary activity is the ubiquitous teen requisite: hanging out anywhere as long as it’s away from adults. Sometimes, when he’s in my vicinity, it suddenly occurs to me that days or weeks have gone by with nary a hug. When he was little, he was the biggest cuddle bunny, constantly against me in full body leans, and taking my face in his little hands to tell me he loves me. Now I walk up to him in the kitchen, put my arms around his lanky frame, and usually have to take his limp arms and wrap them around me in a bit of tragicomedy.
The truth of the matter is that, while I feel like I’ve always been a parent, he is growing up faster than I could have imagined. His milestones are more and more like adult milestones, and so my reaction isn’t what is for his thirteen month old sister. His milestones are normalized against his brother’s, which can seem monumental. And because, even as a little kid, he’s had such a sense of adultness about him, that his milestones come off as givens rather than what they are, which should be remarkable. Oh, he recognizes the need for common good. Oh, he’s waxing poetic on the existential nature of God. Oh, his feet have outgrown mine. Oh, didn’t I just buy those high water pants last week? Oh, wait, is that the first hint of a moustache?! Oh, he’s actually interacting with his baby sister. Oh, he’s consciously choosing to not take this opportunity to fight with his brother. I should be doing much more than having passing thoughts of his capacity to be a kind, to consider any question of spirituality, to grow like the Bermuda grass in my gardens beyond my control.
And maybe that’s it. The idea that he is graduating from middle school has come on so suddenly and sharply, because I know the next handful of years will be spent just trying to balance between allowing him to experience the freedoms that come with self-sufficiency, and keeping him safe. Like his toddler sister running to and fro with not enough sleep bonking her head on furniture, I just want to hold him close, not let him fall on his face as he figures out the world of being a young man for himself. Hopefully I have prepared him well to go at life with abandon, but not so much that he runs headlong into trouble. And maybe, just a little bit, behind all this wondering about his independence, I’m a little fearful, that as he becomes a man, I know him less than I did when I could easily scoop him up in my arms; that there may be those in his friends, who may know him more.
From Miranda Hersey Helin:
I am sitting in the stylist’s chair
blabbing on about my graduating son
where he will go to college, and what he will study
I am millions of other mothers who have sat in their stylists’ chairs
blabbing on about their graduating sons
where their young men will go to college, and what they will study
I move through this well-worn choreography
a caricature, puppet-like, almost without will of my own
It is the centrifugal force of life experience
the very stuff that gives birth to cliché
And while it makes me squirm, these clichés exist
because they tell truths
And I am living one now.
My firstborn, my son, has finished his classes
and next week will wear a cap and gown
and walk across the stage
as he walked across the years
to receive a paper that tells him—and the world—
that he has finished something, many things:
My boy, now nearly grown,
stares up at a wide bright circle of sky
full of promise and unknown
but he is well prepared,
steadfast and strong
with an incisive mind and a loyal heart.
I know who he is.
I want to say “I am so proud of you”
but the cliché distracts;
those words are not original enough
to convey real meaning
What I want to say is:
I am proud that you are my son,
for who you are and the way you are
Not because you reflect me,
because you don’t
But you are something better than that;
You are yourself
I dance with the pride of a million mothers
for a million sons, stepping back
From me (Kelly): I had thought about writing something witty and fun about the graduation of time in our Memorial Day weekend, but after reading Cathy’s poignant entry, it just didn’t seem to fit the bill. Instead, I’ll share a story I wrote last year about this time when my girls graduated from VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten).
Milestones…today was the girls’ last day of VPK. Their graduation program was last Thursday night but today was THE LAST DAY! My babies are growing up too quickly. This picture is from their graduation program. I’ve definitely developed “Gushing Emotional Mama Syndrome” over the last week. It started at graduation, watching them up there on stage doing their part in the program. The nine VPK classes were divided into three teams of three classes, each with a special role on the “VPK Graduation Express”. My girls were part of the “caboose”. They sang all the alphabet songs, identified vowels vs consonants, read a short story out loud and sang “Five Miles from Home!”. Before everything started I was a little worried about Livvie. Sarah’s a ham so I knew she’d be fine, but as they were all marching in, Livvie was looking around wide-eyed, thumb in mouth. They walked all the way around the church and then down the center aisle, right where DH and I were sitting, and I was afraid that as soon as she saw us, she’d dart out of line and over to us. But she did great! She didn’t even suck her thumb while they were on stage! I was so proud! Tears they were a-flowing! Yesterday they came home with the most wonderful scrapbooks that Ms. Tammy and Ms. Mary put together for us. The books documented their whole VPK year, including pictures of all their events as well as just general classroom and playground pictures, drawings, writing exercises, the whole shebang. And once again, I had the tears a-falling looking through both books. Ms. Tammy and Ms. Mary are incredible teachers.
This truly was a huge milestone for us, as the girls birth was a bit of a miracle in itself. They were conceived after a second run of IVF, three years after we learned we lost our first set of twins, also conceived via IVF, two days after my mom died. My girls were born seven weeks early by emergency c-section. I had developed a severe case of pre-eclampsia called HELLP syndrome. I was already high-risk, pregnant with twins at 37, so I was on weekly hospital monitoring for three hours every Monday. That particular Monday my blood pressure was very high, so the nurses really didn’t want to let me go home after my monitoring. I had a regular doctor’s appointment scheduled for the next morning, so I convinced them to let me go home since I’d be seeing “my” doc the next morning. There’s the kicker. My doctor was out of town! When he told me he had to go out of town, I told him, “Don’t you go out of town on me! I’ll have these babies while you are gone!” And he said, “No, you’ll be fine, you’re still seven-eight weeks out!” He hooked me up with a colleague for monitoring while he was gone and that’s who I was scheduled to meet for the first time the next morning. Little Dr. Sunny Kim. Very sweet, tiny little Asian woman. When I went in to see her for the very first time that next morning, she took all my vitals, reviewed the nurse’s notes from the previous day’s monitoring and said she’d be right back. She was gone for what seemed like hours. When she came back in, she sat down in front of me, took my hands in hers, said she had conferred with Dr. Shaykh by phone, and then said, “You are very sick; we have to take these babies now,” and immediately sent me over to the ER for prep. In shock, I called DH and told him he better get there quickly. Then I called my dad. His response was, “You can’t have the babies now! I’m not there!” Typical father! He made it from West Palm Beach to Jacksonville in three and half hours. Apparently he was there by the time I woke up from the surgery, but I don’t remember much.
Sarah was delivered first and, through the miracles of modern medicine, I was still awake at the time. But then Livvie decided she wasn’t ready to face the world. She literally turned around and headed north, getting lodged up in my rib cage. This made it very hard for me to breathe, and I started panicking. All I remember from that point was the nurse anesthetist coming to telling me, “Okay, Kelly, we’re just going to put you to sleep right now; everything will be fine.” DH said things moved very quickly from that point. He probably should have been removed from the room, but I guess with everything happening so quickly, they just didn’t get to that and he got to watch what he now refers to as “Discovery Channel Live”. He said Dr. Kim had to stand up on a stool and press down with all her weight on my chest and upper abdomen to try to push Livvie down. That explained all the soreness and bruising I had in that area when I finally came back to reality. From pictures, I know that the girls were both wrapped up and shown to me before being whisked off to the NICU, but I have no memory of that. For the next two days, I was kept pretty drugged up and on a morphine drip to keep me in bed until they could get my blood-pressure stabilized.
Strangely enough, the only memory I have of those first two and a half days was really wanting to brush my teeth and my dad bringing me the bed pan to brush my teeth in! Dad and DH said they were glad I didn’t see the girls those first two days as they were in pretty bad shape, Livvie in particular. When I was finally allowed out of bed and taken to see them late Thursday night, I felt such a strong mix of emotions: pure joy that they were here, mixed with sadness and fear that they were so very frail, mixed with the first dose of Mama guilt because I couldn’t carry them any longer. They were right at four pounds when they were born and dropped below four pounds for about a week before they finally started gaining a little weight. They are about 10 days old in this picture, and it’s always cracked me up. They seem to be saying to each other, “Oh, Sis, we shouldn’t have had that last bottle last night…I have one heck of a milk hangover”. Sarah was slow and steady with no real issues other than her very small size. Livvie struggled a bit more, undergoing a full blood transfusion at about a week old. I was sent home after five days but had DH or Pops drive me up there every day to sit with them in the NICU until they could come home.
Two steps forward, one step back. That was the nurses’ mantra until the girls could come home, about three weeks later; this picture was taken just before we left the NICU with them for the last time, Sarah on the left, Livvie on the right. I know our story is not unique. I have two very close friends who delivered twins even earlier than I did and spent more grueling weeks than we did in the NICU. That truly is the miracle of modern medicine. Like my girls, Luke and Dylan and Adrian and Christian are all now happy, healthy wonderful little blessings. So we do get to celebrate those milestones, every one of them. And we’re allowed to have “Gushing Emotional Mama Syndrome”, like all Mama’s are. My girls now amaze me every day, the little geniuses that they are (you knew that was coming, didn’t you :-). They’re so smart, and so brave, and so funny, and so sweet, and so beautiful that I often wonder why I was deemed lucky enough to call them mine. We are truly blessed.
This week’s prompt: “Sunday”
Use the prompt however you like – literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight eastern time on Sunday, May 31, 2009. Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly challenge, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 48 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post