Mama Madison: New rhythm to life

Do you remember that exchange in The Incredibles movie where the title character, annoyed that he needs to attend his son's end of year "graduation," angrily tells his wife, Elastagirl, "It is not a graduation. He will be moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade. It's psychotic! They keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity..."

Well, I used to feel the very same way as Mr. Incredible. Not so much that what was accomplished in fourth grade was tantamount to mediocrity. But more that I could sympathize with the fictional superhero's desire to skip out on at least one end-of -school year ceremony, potluck or performance. Especially one that involved watching, for the umpteenth time, a bunch of elementary schoolers parading down the aisle of a non-air conditioned gym to the weak strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" while sporting homemade cardboard mortarboards.

But things are different this year. My youngest is "graduating" from fifth grade and moving on to middle school. And this occasion is giving me pause. Less because it is a super big deal for my daughter who, although nervous, seems ready for the changes, both exciting and nerve-racking, that a new school with new kids will bring.

No, I'm likely to cry a river at my final kid's "Movin' On" ceremony next week for more selfish reasons.

Because the rhythm of my life-the life of an involved (perhaps overinvolved) elementary school parent-- will be substantially changing.

Starting next fall, for example, for the first time in over seven years, I will no longer walk one of my children to school. Sure, those mornings were crazy, attempting to hustle out the door by 7:15 to get to class on time. My child's teeth went unbrushed more times than I care to admit. And I often made the walk while still in my pajama pants. But regardless of the inevitable 7:14 frenzy over where they'd placed (or misplaced) their Friday Folder, or the appropriateness of a pair of shoes on gym day, I relished our morning walking ritual. And I relished even more the fact that as an elementary school parent I at least knew it was a gym day. And that they had a Friday Folder.

Because younger kids tell their parents such things. Middle schoolers, not so much.

And I am also going to very much miss walking the hallowed halls of Randall Elementary, where, just like in the theme song from Cheers, everybody knew my name. Parents, you see, tend to be welcome in elementary school and encouraged to become a part of the community. And I took full advantage. Chaperoning field trips, overseeing "centers," even the occasional playground duty, all helped me feel connected to my kids in ways I fear will inevitably diminish in each passing school year. Because I'm pretty sure my soon-to-be-sixth-grade daughter will not welcome me as a lunchroom helper at Hamilton Middle School. From her perspective I'm already starting to become a bit of a social liability. Especially when I insist on singing along to Pink in front of her friends in the car.

Last week a hilarious post by blogger Jen Hatmaker, the self-proclaimed "Worst End Of School Mom Ever" made its rounds around the Internet. In it, she bemoaned, "The (end of year) emails coming in for All Of The Things -- class gift, end of year letters, luncheon signup, party supplies, awards ceremonies, pictures for the slide shows, final projects -- are like a tsunami of doom." And for years, just as I had with Mr. Incredible, I agreed.

Yet as my last child transitions out of fifth grade, I am already starting to feel nostalgic for the good old days of elementary school parent hyper involvement. But eventually everyone, especially me, needs to be "Movin'On."

So maybe I'll plan to wear a cap and gown to the ceremony next week. But with my pajama pants underneath as a reminder.

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