The Benefits of Moving On

As this season winds down and sees us saying goodbye to an elementary school that has nurtured our kids since they were age five, nostalgia is whipping unchecked through the hallways. The 5th grade graduation rehearsal, I’m told, is interrupted by sniffles from both boys and girls as they prepare whichever heart-wrenching song is going to lay the parents low in a few weeks. Every “last” is commented upon: the last fieldtrip, the last project in computer lab, the last Pajacky Hair Day (that’s Pajama Day and Wacky Hair Day, combined due to Oakland budget cuts.)

At the last school Open House, I heard 5th grade parents coo at kindergarteners and say to one another, “Oh! I can’t believe Joshua and Ashley were ever so small! I miss that!”

Here’s my dry-eyed take: I’m glad my two aren’t that small anymore, because there are a lot of things I do not miss about having very young children. Sure, having a teen and a tween is a whiplash ride I may not survive, my IQ is plummeting every minute in my children’s estimation, and I’ve learned that I have no taste in clothing.

But guess what? I no longer have to play Chutes and Ladders. Remember those hours and hours? You’d think you were just about done nudging one child along to blessed victory so you could start cooking dinner and then – nooooooo! – that child made an unlucky move and slid down the ladder to the bottom of the board. You were looking at another 20 minutes of carpet time and a 9 pm dinner.

Similarly, much as the kids love the Carl books – Carl, the bull mastiff left in charge to babysit a toddler by parents who were obviously addicted to prescription pain meds if they thought that was a sensible plan – I had a big problem with them. THEY HAD NO WORDS. Parents had to make up the story as they read. And a.) I was never good at improv and b.) my kids had photographic memories. “No, Carl is not jumping to get the balloon, Mom,” they might say, shaking their heads. “Last time you said he is jumping to get the cake. Read it again.” Each page brought new adventures in correction.

When the girls were very young I wrote movie reviews for a site that parents can use to decide if a book, movie, or television show might be appropriate for their child. (CommonSenseMedia.org. It’s a fabulous resource and I still use it frequently.) I got to keep the screener copies, so volunteered for the ones my kids would watch with me, and that meant: Barbie movies. Each year Mattel picks another fairy tale off the shelf to bastardize. So, for instance, “Barbie: Thumbelina” took the Hans Christian Anderson story about a diminutive heroine as a jumping off point, kept the diminutive heroine and discarded the rest of the story in favor of flying fairies called The Twillerbees. Did the original Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” need improvement through the addition of new characters, a famous female singer and her childhood-pal-turned-costume-designer? Did they have to rename the crippled child Tiny Tammy? You can understand, perhaps, how relieved I was to leave all that behind.

And then there is kid’s music. I may not love everything I find magically downloaded to my iPod, a side effect of the girls’ tastes and Apple Home Sharing. But hey, at least it’s not Raffi, or worse, the new age-y lullaby CDs that just beg you to smudge a sage stick and name your kid “Heatherwind Moonrise.” I couldn’t scratch those CDs fast enough.

So when you see me sobbing at school next month? Pick any of the above and remind me. Thanks in advance.

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