Beginnings … and Endings

Almost two weeks ago marked my last first day of school. My youngest is now a high school senior. Last week, I went to my last Back to School Night. Over the past 21 years, I have been to 46 Back to School Nights. There have been many changes in that time, in my life, in the schools, in the world.

When my first child entered school, I was clueless. I had no idea what to expect. Up until that time, I knew few people in town and felt somewhat isolated. I was pretty quick to get involved and found many ways to help out, both in and out of the classroom. I made friends with my kids’ friends. We found out about community organizations. Flyers came home with enticing activities to sign the kids up for. We signed our kids up for T-ball and therefore became coaches. Soccer and basketball followed (different sport, same drill – coaches are always needed). There was a brief trial of cheerleading and years of dance and scouting. Middle and high school years added choir, marching band and a plethora of clubs. We bought a van.

Our first classrooms had computers – new computers. Each classroom had its own. Many kids today would not recognize them as computers. They were a combination of boxes and a keyboard. In upper levels, they used them for projects and saved work to a disk. Today, most middle and high school students have school issued computers that fit in their backpacks. If they need to transfer info from one to another, they use a thumb drive. In those early years, some projects required the students to write notes on transparent sheets to be projected onto the white- (or in some cases chalk-) board. Today, they plug in their laptops to the Smartboard and go.

Paper directories were printed with each student’s address and phone number so they could reach each other outside of school. Now, the directories are online, though students more often contact each other through Facebook, Twitter or text. On a similar note, every home had a phone, which was used to contact any person in the house. Today having a landline is unusual and each family member has their own number.

The media also has changed drastically. Cable had about 60 channels, now there are hundreds. You no longer have to tune in to a certain channel at a certain time: even TV is “on demand.” Years ago, most people got their news in the morning or at noon, 6:00 and 11:00. Now, they turn on their computers or look on their phones. Some papers and magazines from 1993 no longer exist; most if not all “print” media are now available in digital format. Music was purchased on CDs, the cassette tape on its steady way out. Now most people listen on iPods.

Life has been the same, but different. Through all of this, I have been able to be home to help my kids with homework and listen and sometimes help them navigate the world. I have been involved in the schools and their other activities and have made even more friends. In a way, I grew up with my kids. 21 years ago, I really didn’t know who I was (honestly, I am still figuring this out). I had NO idea what challenges were ahead of me. I didn’t even know enough to worry about surviving the teenage years or dealing with the emotional balance involved with parenting adult children.

In hindsight, I am happy about this. It means I was living in the moment. Certainly not appreciating the moments as much as I wish I had, but very much living them. A year from now, much of this will stop. I will still have my friends (many of whom have some years before their journey through the schools is over), but the activity level will cease, abruptly. I will still go to the performances, but will no longer be active behind the scenes. I expect that it will all be very strange.

This past summer has been a constant surge of activity and I have just been riding the wave of activity that goes along with moving one child into college and looking for a college that best fits the needs of another. I have been torn. I look forward to a break in the activity, yet do not look forward to the long stretches of quiet that will come way too soon. Fortunately, my kids have made sure that my schedule will not allow me time to dwell on that.

It has been a year since I first wrote here and I am happy to say that I have met one goal: I am writing more often. Although I am frustrated with myself that I have not written more, I really don’t have regrets. I have very little time left to just be Mom and I don’t want to miss anything. I do however have a new goal: I want to plan more.

We are now two weeks into the school year so it is time for me to get more disciplined. I am almost used to the schedule again (why can’t the day start after 8 a.m.?) and have a calendar full of events. I have a project (or two or 10) to finish and want to start posting here regularly (maybe once a week). Calendars and lists tend to be my friend in times like these. My biggest challenge lately is the pop-up issue that inevitably takes up more time than should be necessary. (This is often due to recorded messages and cumbersome menus to get to real people – why do I have to push anything? Just answer the phone!) Maybe the answer is to schedule them as well. If nothing pops up, well, more time for me!

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