The music

by Jennifer on May 14, 2008

Next week is the last week of school around here, and there’s the usual small storm of activity and year-end school events. Tomorrow night, we will attend Boy’s Suzuki concert at school, where he will stand in the back row and play three songs on the violin with his classmates. I feel very lucky that our school sponsors such a great music program. He has two years of instruction behind him now, and he is proud of what he has learned and wants to continue if we move somewhere else.

The songs they learn are simple and uncomplicated. The notes are pure and clear. The earnest look of trying, of effort, on the students’ faces is sweet and heart-twisting. Last year, the 3rd graders seemed so far ahead of the 2nd graders. So this year, now that Boy is in 3rd grade, I can’t wait to hear the difference and how far he has come.

Girl is finishing 1st grade, and I haven’t yet wrapped my mind around her new 2nd grade-ness. Second grade seems like a big girl year, so much older than 1st, even though it’s just one year ahead. She is more capable and confident than she was going into this school year. I love seeing her at school, in her class or in the cafeteria, so sure of herself and where she should go and how to navigate her way from one place to the next.

It’s what we hope for, isn’t it?

Fourth grade next year for Boy, which sounds impossible. How is it possible that his 8 pounds, 9 ounces turned into a fourth grader? But I hear that the science experiments start to get really interesting in 4th grade (the tables at the Science Showcase last week clued me in on that). Since his interest in science and invention is boundless, I know he will be excited to move on to more challenging projects.

This year, especially, I feel relieved that the end of school is in sight. There are big changes ahead for us, and I’m ready to get on with it. But there’s something else, too. I feel like I can exhale now, like I also just moved up a grade. I swear to the gods, I don’t know how I managed to steer Boy and Girl through one more year of school without major event. In fact, aside from the bajillion visits Girl made to the nurse’s office, the two of them managed to stay off the trouble radar. They’re good kids, and I imagine they behave better at school than they do at home.

(I’m thinking of setting aside a room in the next house and calling it The Principal’s Office. I’m taking applications for someone to sit in there, behind a desk maybe, after school every day and on weekends. You won’t have to do much, and you can read magazines and even blog, but the implied threat could be a great addition to my parenting arsenal.)

If the school gave me a parent report card, I wouldn’t expect to see an A for effort . Sometimes, not even a B.

Just last week, I forgot for three days in a row that they both needed a boost in their lunch money accounts. For three days, they came home with a lunch stamp on the backs of their hands. And I still forgot. I wrote a note in big letters (Lunch Money!) and put it on my desk. And I still forgot. (They had enough to buy lunch those days, but the coffers were darn close to empty.)

I forgot sometimes to track down school library books, even though every Friday is library day. Every single Friday. No surprise. And I still forgot.

Sure, I kept the school machinery running well enough. Homework, worksheets, Wednesday envelopes, Friday folder, signed reading sheets, no tardies, clean socks, clean underwear, making sure everyone wore underwear (you’d be surprised at the rate of willingly going commando around here).

But I kept things running just well enough, some weeks.

One of the best parts about school, aside from learning (of course), is that sense of getting another chance to get it right. As a student, and for me as a parent. There’s a lot to be said for a clean slate. But there’s also something great about knowing the ropes, in knowing the routine and the expectations. Both are necessary to keep things moving smoothly along, at school and at home. And still, sometimes things get bumpy. I’m still learning.

This evening I drove past the school on my way home. There were just a couple of cars in the parking lot, and it looked like it will in a few weeks. Deserted. Full of waiting.

I could almost hear the daytime sounds that move through the air when school is in session. The laughter. The creak of swings. The whump of a classroom door closing. A voice over the P.A. system telling so-and-so to come to the office or to return to class. The breeze sending leaves skittering across the sidewalk when everyone is in class and the courtyard is quiet.

All of these sounds together make their own kind of music, and that music carries us forward into summer and into the next year. It’s a song I know, and one that my kids know now, and there’s safety and confidence in finding that I can hum along. I know they can, they know it so well, and it reassures me as much as it tears at my heart.

Still, the music is simple and uncomplicated. The notes are pure and clear.

We move on.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

D / Momma May 15, 2008 at 4:00 am

Jennifer –

Your last few paragraphs were stunningly beautiful. I particularly liked: “The breeze sending leaves skittering across the sidewalk when everyone is in class and the courtyard is quiet.” Gave me chills with the memory of fall and classes settling in as they move towards making the orange construction paper pumpkins or the turkeys that are imprints of their hands colored in, their names scrawled across the bottom in crayon.


Peace – D

D / Mommas last blog post..My Best Move

Mary Alice May 15, 2008 at 4:04 am

Ahhh beautiful. The chance to start again. Teacher’s love that too.

Mary Alices last blog post..Out of Pocket.

suburbancorrespondent May 15, 2008 at 4:35 am

We mommas need to stop focusing on what we don’t get done and focus on all that we do get done. Good enough is good enough, you know!

I wish I’d take my own advice…

suburbancorrespondents last blog post..How Not To Let Sleeping Teens Lie

Angela May 15, 2008 at 4:55 am

It is always so bittersweet, isn’t it? Time moves along way too fast, and while I’m always happy for their victories and successes and growing independence, it also makes me realize how swiftly they are moving away from me already. Very hard. This was so lovely.

Angelas last blog post..Post-Op

Madge May 15, 2008 at 5:07 am

beautiful post. i love “deserted. full of waiting” that is EXACTLY what school parking lots and playgrounds look like in summer.

i knew her when, i knew her when (mockingly said to other readers)

Madges last blog post..Iron Man

Kellan May 15, 2008 at 5:21 am

I am anxious for school to be over. There is a time for everything and it is time for school to be over until next year!!!

Have a good day Jennifer – see you – Kellan

Kellans last blog post..Fairy Horns and Unicorn Tales

Brenda May 15, 2008 at 5:45 am

“…it reassures me as much as it tears at my heart.”

I look forward to this feeling. Right now it just tears at my heart. Big Girl has 2 days of Kindergarten (playing) left. (We aren’t even really going to school today. A 2-hour field trip is all.) It has been the fastest year of my life. It scares me to know the next ones will go faster and faster until the whole thing is just a blur.

I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the reassurance of it all.

(Thanks for posting early, by the way! ) =)

Jenn @ Juggling Life May 15, 2008 at 7:04 am

September and June are two of my favorite months. We get back into the routine and then, just when we can’t stand it anymore, we get a break from the routine.

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..Thinking About Literary Stuff

cce May 15, 2008 at 7:22 am

I have so much ambivalence about the end of school. While it’s the finish of the familiar and the routine and virtually every lick of free time I will have for the next three months, it is also the beginning of long sunshiny days spent in damp bathing suits running through sprinklers and licking watermelon drips off our arms with nowhere in particular to go, and no certain time to be there. It is necessary freedom, this summer thing and I can remember cherishing every moment of it as a kid. I will try to remember that when I long for a eight hour school day sometime in July.

Thanks for your admissions about goofing on library books and lunch money. I am guilty of the same forgetfulness. Week after week. It never ceases to amaze me, my own capacity for benign neglect.

cces last blog post..Love or Nothing

Candy May 15, 2008 at 7:34 am

Lunch money guilt! It never ends!!

Candys last blog post..More Effective than a Breathalizer

Daryl E May 15, 2008 at 7:37 am

You write so well. I can always see what you write… I am there.


Daryl Es last blog post..busy morning

melissa May 15, 2008 at 7:57 am

As always, you’re so poetic and cut to the heart of this time! I hear you about the “grade.” I’d get a B, too. For similar reasons. I look forward to seeing my middle in 2nd grade–those are great years of growth and learning but with all the innocence and none of the nasty puberty attitudes spoiling things.

melissas last blog post..You can call me Princess Diana

dlyn May 15, 2008 at 8:19 am

Most of my friends looked forward to the beginning of school, but I always enjoyed the end of it each year and the months of relaxed living with my kids.

You have a lovely blog and I will be back to check it out again.

dlyns last blog post..Extremely Healthy Cookies

flutter May 15, 2008 at 10:05 am

Beautiful, just like your Girl. Just like you, really

flutters last blog post..Why this is necessary

SteveCinNM May 15, 2008 at 11:22 am

There is indeed a rhythm to the school years that I had forgotten until now. As we’re a step-and-a-half behind you in this adventure, I appreciate the lyrical interlude. Like music, your posts often seem to carry with them an inescapable emotion infused in every phrase. This one made me smile — inside and out.

Hey — how was the poker tourney?

Sandy (Momisodes) May 16, 2008 at 8:36 am

So beautiful, and so bittersweet. I always love the emotion that fills me every time I come here. As excited as I was to see the school years end as a kid, a tiny part of me wanted to hold on sometimes. Time seems to pass so quickly.

Sandy (Momisodes)s last blog post..Hai’ahh…

we_be_toys May 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

I love how you take something as mundane as school responsibilities and turn it into something lyrical and profound. You’re good!!! It amazes me almost daily how fast these kids are growing up – my son was telling me about his girl problems the other day, and it was kind of blowing my mind – what the hell is my 8lb, 11 ouncer doing thinking about GIRLS?????

I do my best to stay caught up on school stuff but fuhget abowt it – there’s too much!
I actually had a teacher tell me last week that she was so tired of giving out homework because it was taking forever to grade it all. She wished school was already over, so she could take a much needed break.
What could I say, other than, “Testify Woman!”

I think we’re all ready for the summer break (I know I am!)

we_be_toyss last blog post..Ludicrous Beauty

Dharmamama May 16, 2008 at 12:19 pm

What a gorgeous post – about something I never thought I’d appreciate! Radical unschooler, here, for many, many reasons. I forget sometimes, the good things about school, that there actually *are* good things.

Damn – you must be a good writer, to make me say something like that! o_0

Dharmamamas last blog post..I Love My Church

Emily R May 16, 2008 at 2:31 pm

I think we both know that parenting can get a lot worse than JUST keeping things going.

Emily Rs last blog post..A note to my husband and a meme

Lisa May 16, 2008 at 6:28 pm

That school sounds amazing! And you summed up summer so perfectly. I love it!

Lisas last blog post..And the best part was….

HRH May 16, 2008 at 7:37 pm

I am so glad about the lunch money thing. It makes me feel much better about NOT having ANY milk for my family’s breakfast this morning and then NOT getting ANY milk all day…and then calling a babysittter to pick some up on the way over? Would that be wrong?

HRHs last blog post..Worth noting…

Carolyn May 16, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Beautiful. Just beautiful. As as child I loved school and you caputured all of the wonderfulness of it in this post. The excitment of completing a year and moving forward and the anticipation of starting with a clean slate in the fall. It was always such a wonderful cycle for me.

And as for your parenting? You deserve far more than you give yourself credit for. If Boy and Girl handed out a report card to you I’m sure it would be all “A”s.

Carolyns last blog high.

Tootsie Farklepants May 17, 2008 at 2:06 pm

My favorite part about school is the back to school shopping. Fresh pencils, blank notebooks, the smell of erasers. I always over-buy.

Tootsie Farklepantss last blog post..The Post That May Cure Your Insomnia

JCK May 18, 2008 at 1:13 am

Lovely post, Jennifer! I adore the idea of The Principal’s Office. I might have to try it here!

JCKs last blog post..I get a phone call…

Just Jamie May 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Yet again a gorgeous post. As a teacher, and even much before, I have always had a fascination with the order within the school walls. It seems so obvious that we should all get a “clean slate” each year at our profession.

Love the idea of a Principal threat in your home. Brilliant.

Just Jamies last blog post..Gone Fishin’

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