Monday, August 14, 2017

Before you go to school this year, 2017

I asked you all yesterday if you still wanted me to write this post. You're getting older, you deeply enjoy your independence and privacy, and yet still demand that I do this thing. Kinda like the birthday letters every year that I'll apparently never stop writing.

It's a little ironic, since this blog started all those years ago as a way to chronicle your childhoods, then morphed into whatever it is today, albeit now complete with nicknames to preserve your identities.

Then again, it isn't like I've been writing much anyway...

Two of you will go back tomorrow, two more on Wednesday, and then it will be me and the toddler staring at each other all day every day. I'm sort of excited about that but also dreading it at the same time because I am your mother and your mother is an emotional minefield when school starts anyway, but this year especially.

Let's just get this over with. Next year, I'll have to write five of these things. Gulp.

To The Oldest...
I cannot believe that you are going to be a Junior this year. Are a Junior. As in only have one more year of high school left after this one and then college will happen. I suspect that you'll end up going to that very-nearby school, and so you won't be GONE gone, but it will still be different. And weird. And the house will feel a little more empty. I'll still worry as much, if not more, though, because that is how I operate. You've changed what you want to be when you grow up a few times in this last year, which is totally fine by me. In fact, I encourage it. I want you to try out new things and decide what you actually like to do and discover that what you thought you might love is indeed something that you loathe. It's waaaaay easier to change your mind now than it ever will be further down the road, so try on some stuff while you can. Besides, I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up yet, so I can't reasonably expect that you should know. 

In the past year, you finished up your Eagle rank in scouting (though we still haven't had your Court of Honor because we're busy people with procrastination issues), you got your license (and FINALLY calmed the hell down about driving after you passed the test, which is a good thing because you were really freaking me out there for a while), you won another state championship with drumline, earned an academic letter and an invitation to National Honor Society, and pulled off damn good grades while doing band and volunteering. You got even taller (which, really, is that going to stop soon because it's going to get hard to find pants eventually...), and it's been surreal to watch your face and your silhouette morph from awkward teenager to young man. It really is the weirdest thing to watch happen. People who don't actually live you with you can see the changes because they are so dramatic, but the reality is that the degree of those changes was enough for your dad and I to witness it from day to day. SO WEIRD. In the best possible way, but still strange. 

I know that you are already worried about your class load this year. 5 AP classes at once is, in a word, RIDICULOUS. I mean, come on. It's a lot and it's going to be a lot, so hang on to those mental happy fun time vacations in band and try not to stress too much, even if that battery time signature is almost impossible. Time management is an important life skill, and you're really going to need it this fall. I will make you take breaks. I will force you to sleep and eat. I will shove you outside to go run off that frustration. I will remind you to go swim laps at the pool because you're the one who promised your sister you'd do the triathlon with her next year. 

Mostly, though, enjoy this time. There isn't much of it left, this adolescence. Laugh, play, do jazz hands, make occasional bad decisions (but not too bad or permanent, please). Squat on all the things. I love you. So does your Dad. He's just messing with you. But you already knew that....

To Freckles....
HIGH SCHOOL ALREADY?!?!?! What happened, kid? When I was filling in the breaks for the school year on the family calendar yesterday, I had to write down that it was going to be your 15th birthday next year, which is not possible. You were just six years old, wearing enormous sunglasses, utterly convinced that you were Sharpay from  High School Musical.

You can't be going to high school. 

But you are. Mostly because you don't listen to me anyway. You do your own thing. March to your own drummer...but never ever in actual drumline because that is your brother's thing and ewwwww. This year has been one full of changes and drama and hard things for you. You've forced yourself to do so many things that I know you didn't actually want to do, or maybe you partly wanted to do them but were afraid, and then you went and did them anyway. You've stood up to adults when you had to, you've fought for what is right more times than I could count. You've helped make an entire school a safer, more welcoming place for kids who might not have a safe welcoming place anywhere. 

You did that. I just showed up occasionally and brought snacks. 

You've spent another year volunteering at the Humane Society, hanging out with all the cats because you are actually a human cat, entirely convinced of your independence, but always wanting to know that I'm not too far away. Not too close either. 

I know that you're a little (okay a lot) nervous about school this year because there are so many changes coming, but it will be okay....and it will be okay because I've known you for your whole entire life, and I know that sometimes I just have to slow down and kick you out of the car, then drive away super fast before you can hop back in. And once you're there, you don't just survive whatever the new and scary thing is, you kick its ass. Because you're amazing. 

Even if you are officially taller than me now. Gosh. 

Bravery isn't about not being afraid. It's about being afraid and doing the right thing anyway. Keep doing the right thing. I'll keep abandoning you in parking lots and dropping off snacks periodically. I love you, and I'm proud of you. Dad basically is you, just an older, balder male version of you, and he thinks he is awesome, so naturally he thinks the same about you. *winky face*

To Mini Me...
This might actually be the calmest year yet for you, with the least amount of changes ever...and just thinking about that has me giddy. GIDDY, I tell you. You don't do change well. You come by that honestly. This year, though, should be smooth sailing. Same school, same teachers, nothing dramatic in the foreseeable future. ALL GOOD THINGS.

I know you are trying to decide between doing swimming and volleyball for the fall, but the gravity of a decision like that one is something I am welcoming in my life right now. Last year, it was the whole reintroduction to public school after being homeschooled thing, and it went way easier than I anticipated it ever would or could, mostly because of your social butterfly-ness. You really do love the people. 

For the first time in maybe ever, you'll also be on your own in a school without a single sibling present. You just get to be you, not so and so's sister, although honestly I don't see how people could ever really confuse you with your older siblings because you are all as different as can possibly be. 

For this year, keep trying new things. If you want to switch instruments, do it. If you want to try a different sport, do it. If you meet new friends and want to spend time with different groups of people, do it. If you fall in love with the art class you are currently convinced you are going to hate but I'm encouraging you to try anyway, do it (okay, this is me being optimistic here...)

Keep cooking and baking and making us watch all those cooking and baking shows. Keep taunting your siblings into joining you in the 5ks and triathlons. It's good for them, and for you. Keep making Dad take you out fishing and backpacking and hiking, and always make sure he stops at the video game place on the way home. Every time. I know you will make sure. 

Stay passionate about fighting for justice and fairness. I'll be the first to tell you that it can get exhausting, seeing things about the world that other people are content to ignore...but never ever ignore them just because you can. Drag out a spotlight instead. As you do.

You come by that part honestly, too. After all, you got that nickname for a reason. I love you. Have an amazing year. 

To Little Boy (a.k.a. Chicken)...
I haven't written much here lately, so I almost forgot that we switched your nickname...since you aren't so little anymore. Chicken still fits though, and I am perfectly content to still be the Chicken Mama. 

This year....oh, this year....big changes for you. Sudden, too. But, as you will learn many times in your life, sometimes you have to seize an opportunity, think happy thoughts and jump in with both feet. Right now, that leap of faith is one where you go back to public school. You're even going back to the same school. But it isn't the same school, not really anyway. The building is the same. It's filled with a lot of the same people. But it's a completely different place now. It just feels right. 

I learned a very long time ago to trust my instincts when it comes to my kids, and this time, my gut told me this was the right time and the right place for you to go back. I know that you are nervous, unsure of what to expect, afraid that what happened last time might happen again. I know. And I will do everything in my power to try and comfort those fears...but I'm nudging you back out there for a reason. A simple one, really.

Because it feels like the right thing to do.

You need it, my child who loves the people the very most. You need the daily friends and the constant interaction. You need a break from dealing with a toddler all day too. I mean, obviously the downside is that you'll have to wear pants. That's unfortunate, but there is a price to pay for everything, right?

You've grown up so much these last two years being home. You've learned so much. You've flourished in ways I didn't even think possible. You aren't the little boy you were back then. 

You aren't. You are this strong and determined and confident kid now. And I'm proud of you. I hope, hope, hope that this year is a good one. I feel like it will be. And if it isn't, there's always other options. We know that now. Some of them don't even require pants. I love you.

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