The Open and the Close (Seventh grade)

"I open at the close" - JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The day of Caitlin's sixth grade promotion, all I could think about was the line, "I open at the close". JK Rowling is the master of feelings and emotions, so it seemed appropriate that it became my mantra for the day and the summer that followed. With every ending is a new beginning, so standing at the close, meant that soon enough there would be an open. I had to keep telling myself this, otherwise my emotions overwhelmed me. I did not adequately anticipate the feelings of that day or the days leading up to the end of her sixth grade year. In the back of my mind, seventh grade, "JR HIGH", was a whole year away. In fact, a year ago this week, the idea of having a child in seventh grade was a funny joke that I laughed off because how ridiculous the notion? Until, that unusually overcast day in June, Sixth Grade Promotion Day, I found myself at the close. For most, and many parents I talked to, the end of sixth grade is just that, simply the end of another school year. No promotion or graduation needed, but for me the end seemed monumental. It still seems monumental today, being I dropped her off at her new school this morning. A school that seems impossibly big for my baby girl. My baby who is laughably almost taller than I am. 

The memories that flowed at the end of sixth grade brought along a deluge of other memories. That surprised me. Motherhood is incredible in that way. It allows for self reflection at the most inopportune times. When you have to be happy and celebratory, and all you want to do is reflect and curl into a ball and cry. Here I was at the 'close', thinking about all of the wonderful and amazing things my daughter accomplished this year, while simultaneously thinking about how incredibly insane it felt that she actually did those things. Caitlin is my daughter that didn't sleep or latch. She cried many days and nights, while I spent most of those same days and nights in my rocking chair, almost catatonic. Wondering if she would ever stop, sleep, or even eat. She eventually stopped and ate, but has only taken five naps in her lifetime, maybe. She cried every day of preschool and every day of first grade. (Kindergarten was obviously a gap year for her.) She refused to participate in choir performances her first and third grade years. Caitlin was the child that wouldn't let me leave her at a birthday party, a dance class, or even with family members at times. Her separation anxiety was such that I rarely went anywhere the first two years of her life, and when I did, I was so stressed that I didn't even enjoy myself. Caitlin has always been the child that challenges me in every possible way and pushes every damn button possible. Why would I share any of this out loud? Because...

That same child full of fear and anxiety was the first student up on the zip line at sixth grade camp this year. I watched her climb the pole and across the tiny high wire to the platform, then off she went into the great unknown. Well not really the unknown, but I have a great video to prove it where you can hear me audibly sigh at the end of the video, because she did it and also she was still alive! I was also proud and amazed that she was so brave. So confident and so sure of herself. It was breathtaking. The same child that refused to sing in the school choir for two years, tried out for a solo for the spring concert and was picked for a duet. She sang her heart out that night, and will be in the concert choir at her new Jr High. The same girl who cried at drop off all those mornings was the same girl who ran for leadership secretary. She volunteered in multiple lower grade classrooms working with kids on reading and math. She performed with her schools pep and cheer teams. She also accepted a class assignment with the Autism class at her school to help with their exercise program, requiring a twice monthly bus ride off site. That same baby who didn't sleep. The same child who cried every day. The same child who wouldn't let me leave the house without her ever... did all of these things. Twelve years ago, sitting in my rocking chair trying to soothe her never ending cries, I would have never dreamed of such things. I don't think I could have dreamed such things, because everything seemed so hard and far away in those days. I had no idea that we would come so far in so little time.

I've been standing at the close for the entire summer. Reflecting on the past twelve years. Twelve years of motherhood and growth, life lessons and milestones. How is it possible that as the milestones become few and farther between, they carry so much more weight. These days the milestones are solid. My daughter finished sixth grade. The elementary school where I've dropped her off for over six years is no longer her school. Milestones that are just as important as cutting a tooth or taking first steps, but today's milestones feel concrete. Permanent and strategic for optimum emotion.

Today we are at the open, my daughter and I, whether she realizes it or not. Seventh grade is the beginning. A new school. Seven classes with seven teachers I may never meet. Seven different homework assignments at any time. Today is the open, new activities, new electives, new friends to be made, new challenges to be met in the years to come. At the open, my oldest daughter looks every bit the part of the teenager. At the open, the drop off goodbyes are shorter, no more lingering for a second kiss goodbye. At the open, she sends me text messages of funny tik tok videos and selfies. Text messages that allow us to communicate in a way that pushes zero buttons. Today, at the open, she called me to let me know her science teacher is cool, she is dropping her zero period class, and she sounds absolutely fine at that impossibly big school.

At the open, I'm the mom of a seventh grader wondering how I got here on minimum sleep and maximum emotion. It just doesn't seem possible.