When my boy started school way back in 2002, my strategy for dealing with requests for not-so-healthy lunchbox inclusions was to institute a routine – on Fridays he could have a stras sandwich and a chocolate bar in his lunch. Not on any other day, just Fridays. Two years later, when my girl joined him at school, it was the same deal. She once told me that it became quite the event amongst her friends to find out what her ‘Friday treat’ would be! Forty weeks of school per year, 13 years per child. If my maths is correct, I think that means I’ve made over 1000 stras sandwiches and popped over 1000 chocolate bars into lunchboxes. This morning, I made my last Friday lunch box. It’s the last full week of school for my girl. The last full week of being a school mum for me.
When my boy finished school, I remember my heart filling as I watched him conduct the year 12s in singing a farewell song at their valedictory dinner, listened to him – along with all his classmates -tell of his reflections of his time at school at his final cathedral service, and then my eyes moistening and overflowing as he walked out of his final chapel service, candle in hand with the school choir singing Coldplay’s ‘I Will Fix You’. I recalled the nights I stood rocking my baby boy to sleep, his tiny hands resting on my neck, and now here he was, towering over me and enveloping me in his embrace as he we stood in the courtyard farewelling his schooldays.
Next week it is my girl’s turn. On Monday she will have her last classes. Tuesday morning will see her celebrating muck-up day with her friends in their dyed and remodelled summer uniforms. In the afternoon we will attend her final assembly at school when all the year 12s will be presented with a rose from the prep girls. The little prep girls they once were, now grown into beautiful young women. In the evening we will attend her valedictory dinner. And then the next morning, the final revision before exams starts.
During their time at school I’ve watched both my boy and my girl grasp the opportunities their schools have offered them. They have been prepared to participate even if they’ve not been overly confident in their abilities and I think that is a wonderful attribute to have – to not feel that we have to shine at something to give it a go. I’ve seen them take part in activities where they have had ability, and this has been recognised by their school and peers. And I’ve seen them grit their teeth through activities they really didn’t want to be a part of – swimming sports, school camps, we’re looking at you! But that’s part of life, isn’t it? Sometimes you just have to suck it up! Through it all, I think they’ve learned that the more you put in to an experience, the more you get out of it. They have learned about themselves – what they like, who they like, what they value.
When my boy was approaching his final days, I wondered how I would cope without the regular school routine. How would I adjust to life with someone coming in and out of the house at odd times, and maybe not even needing to be out of the house on some days? But having overcome that hurdle, I am looking forward to waving goodbye to the demands of the school routine. I am excited for my girl to have flexibility in her days and to take the skills she has learned at school into her new world and to use them to expand her experiences even further. The many extra curricular actvities she has thrown herself into, combined with a constant and heavy academic workload, have made life very difficult at times. To be freed from the rigidity of the school timetable will be much appreciated by her – and us!
Nevertheless, I know that a bucket load of tears will be shed – by her and me! I will be remembering the touch of her little hand in mine as we were out and about doing the shopping in the days before she started kinder. I will be remembering the little girl who wandered out from her bedroom before her first day of school asking ‘Mum, what if I’m in the secret garden and …’. I will be remembering all the ballet concerts, plays and music performances we’ve seen her in and the joy on her face when we’ve met her ‘after the show’. And I will be marvelling at the beautiful, compassionate, socially aware, witty, interesting young woman she has become – a young woman who is deeply appreciative of the education she has received, aware that there are many young girls throughout the world who do not have such an opportunity.
So. It is now time for me to wave goodbye to their childhoods. But they will always be my babies and I will never wave goodbye to my children. And they will never be too old for me to tell them I love them to the moon and back and even more than that.