Everybody Wave and Sing Goodbye

On Tuesday morning, June had a play date with the Ground Beetle. It was originally supposed to be a playground picnic with both moms present, but I accidentally scheduled a furnace tune-up at the same time, so the Beetle’s mom volunteered to pick June up and watch the girls at the playground herself. And then early in the morning it started to pour rain, so the play date ended up moving to the Beetle’s house. As a result, I had a longish chunk of time to myself, about five hours.

I exercised, worked on some abstracts, had a lovely lunch with the Mallard Duck’s mother at Capital Cheesecake (http://www.capitalcitycheesecakes.com/), worked some more and even snuck in a couple of short stories from my Twain collection. It was a nice day, a little like my birthday if less decadent, but definitely more balanced than my days usually feel.

June goes to school for fifteen hours a week and that sounds like a lot of free time, especially for someone who works only a couple hours a week most weeks. But between walking June to and from school, co-oping every other Friday, school holidays and sick days, it’s never actually that long. And I’m an introvert, someone who requires a lot of alone time to re-charge. In my six years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve never really felt I had enough of that, though it gets better every year, as the kids have gotten more independent and June has spent more and more time at school.

That’s why summer makes me nervous every year, all those weeks and weeks (ten and a half for Noah, eleven and half for June) of largely unstructured time. In reality, I usually find it goes more quickly than I think it will and in the end I’m left with memories of splashing in the creek, eating popsicles on the porch, and spending hours lying under the silver maple tree and reading to them, and I try to forget all the times they whined about being bored and drove me to distraction with their bickering.

Noah came home while June was still napping. He found me on the porch, marking up a study about plant-based adaptogens and he slumped into a wicker rocking chair. “I have a lot of math homework,” he announced. And as much as my pleasantly solitary day had made me think of the downsides of summer vacation, I immediately saw the upside. He’s worked so hard this year and he really needs a break. His teacher said in a recent e-mail that he seems to have “checked out.”

It’s not time for that yet. He has two and a half weeks of school left and has to complete work on a puppet show about coral reef animals, finish researching and participate in a debate on universal health care, teach the class a lesson about thunderstorms and who knows what else? Just this week he finished a major math project, designing a board game based on the principles of probability. Does it make you tired just reading all this? The kid needs to ride his scooter and build his solar-powered car and make all the robots in his Lego robot kit manual and play on the computer. He’s not going to as many day camps as he usually does this summer, just three weeks of drama camp at Round House (http://www.roundhousetheatre.org/education-outreach/summer-programs-2011/), and I think that’s fine. He needs the downtime.

June has a week and a half of school left. Like Noah she, too, has three weeks of camp, two at her preschool, and a week of drama camp at the rec center. Her first week of camp coincides with Noah’s last week of school, so it will be a few weeks before the kids are both home all day, but Friday was my last day of co-oping at her school, so it’s starting to feel like the end of preschool is just around the corner.

I don’t even know what to say about this. She was two years old, tiny and shy when she first walked through the doors of the brightly painted bungalow and into the realm of two of the warmest, most capable, and creative preschool teachers you could imagine. She will walk out those doors a taller, more confident five year old. While we won’t leave behind the friendships we forged there with teachers and parents and children, we won’t be in day to day contact with most of them any more either and that makes me sad, as much as I want to move on to the next stage of our lives, the two-kids-in-elementary-school phase (which will only last a year because Noah will be in middle school the year after that, but let’s not think about that right now). Thank goodness for the school’s summer camps, which children up to age ten can attend. These and the after-school programs the school used to run have kept Noah in touch with Lesley in the five years since he left the school and that relationship had been a real blessing for him. She gets him a deep way most people don’t.

Co-oping on Friday felt surprisingly normal. Somehow I managed not to dwell on it being the last time. June had a play date with the Painted Turtle that morning before school started, another playground picnic. This one didn’t get rained out, but since I needed to be at school at 11:50 and the kids didn’t need to be there until noon and they wanted to climb the boulder “one more time,” the Turtle’s mom agreed to stay with them while I headed up to school.

Early in the school day as the kids were playing in the main classroom, I did ask Andrea if the kids could be divided up for music class in a way so that June was in the first group because I had housekeeping duty and the housekeeper goes in with the first music group. I wanted to see June with Becky, not for the last time because Becky will be back next week and then June’s going to be in her music camp in July and I will probably take her to a couple of Becky’s drop-in classes this summer and Becky has a daughter of babysitting age, but, yes, for the last time on a co-oping day. June’s known Becky even longer than Lesley and Andrea, having been enrolled in her Kindermusik class for several sessions when she was two and three, and she and Becky are quite fond of each other.

This year the Tracks class has been studying The Carnival of the Animals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Carnival_of_the_Animals) and as an end of year project, they are making a Carnival of the Tracks movie. Each child got to choose an instrument that he or she thought represented his or her symbol. June choose the sand blocks to represent the Great Blue Heron. Sand blocks, for those of you unfamiliar with children’s music classes, are little plastic rectangles covered with sandpaper you can rub together. June said the sound reminded her of a bird’s feet on a rock. The Tracks also learned a song, with hand motions. Filming starts next week.

I think the closest I got to getting choked up was at the end of music when Becky started to sing, “Everybody Wave and Sing Goodbye,” because how could it not make me think about the bigger goodbyes on the horizon? Saying goodbye to all this is so hard. I don’t know how the teachers do it every year.

But then I was back out in the classroom, threading yarn through blunt needles and tying knots in it for a sewing project and the kids went through their yarn and required more so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to think much. It was the same while they were out on the playground and I was trying to scrub blueberry stains off the kitchen floor with only moderate success. (The snack of yogurt, granola and frozen blueberries the Toad’s dad brought was a big hit.)

At dismissal, Andrea and Lesley hugged me, and they were both teary. On the walk home I asked June, “Do you ever feel sad about preschool ending soon?”

“No,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone.

“I do,” I said, so she’d know it was okay if she does feel sad later. It could be a week and a half is just too far in the future to bother her, but I don’t think that’s it. I think she’s just ready to move on. She’s eager to be bigger and older and kindergarten is what comes next, so that’s what she wants. That’s a good thing, but I can’t help but indulge in a few lingering backward glances before it really is time to wave and say goodbye.