How does one process the deaths of 19 elementary school children in Texas? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s tempting to numb the pain, especially when it comes on the heals of the grocery store murders in Buffalo.
To avoid avoidance, I decided to document some of the highlights of my own daughter’s K-12 school experience. She graduates in a few weeks. Doing so allowed me to really feel, in my bones, the magnitude of the loss.
Elementary School …
Discovering team sports: There is something magical about seeing your child learn the rules of a game. I remember t-ball players running around the bases to grasp the routine, and my husband, as the soccer coach, reminding the kids which goal was theirs and which was the opponent’s. (He did so several times each game.)
School performances: The pride of watching one’s child perform their role in a school play is hard to beat, even as they wave to you rather than reciting their lines. All parents recognize their own kid’s voice in the school choir amidst the loud shouting of the lyrics. The school talent show convinced me that my daughter was going to be a star.
Parent/Teacher Conferences: While this may not be a high point for all caregivers, I beamed as I listened to teachers share all of things that make our child unique.
Book fairs: How can you not support the love of reading? Money in ziplock bags was added to the lunchbox on these special days.
Waiting for the school bus: The ritual of picking up my daughter each day helped me transition from work to home. We loved the bus driver and gave him cookies.
End of the year picnics: I helped my girl select from the potluck offerings and then sat on the grass with other parents, drinking clandestine wine and watching our kids run around as day turned to night.
The Moving Up ceremony: We said goodbye to elementary school with an assembly where each fifth grader walked across the stage to receive a colorful certificate of completion.
Middle School …
Switching classes: It is hard transitioning from one teacher to six. My daughter came home after day 1 overwhelmed. By the end of day 5, she acted like the school president.
After school dances: Hum, what to say about them? They were held right after school in the gym with the lights on – no opportunity for the sweaty slow dances that I recall from my middle school days. I particularly loved the giggly debriefing that happened after each one.
Volleyball: After years of cheering on teams outside in rainy Seattle, our daughter gave us the gift of playing volleyball. She learned to deliver a wicked spin serve.
Orchestra concerts: The students are too good for “Hot Cross Buns” by this point but perhaps not quite good enough for the ambitious pieces they perform. There’s a frequent misplaced note and screechy violin. No one cares. They look like little professionals in their white tops and black pants.
Learning Spanish: It's one amazing thing to watch a child learn to talk. It's another to see them do so in another language. Mine even had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica to practice.
High School …
School sports: There’s really nothing like cheering on your child from the bleachers, wearing the school swag. The way that girls celebrate when a team member scores offers a powerful counter narrative to the mean girls.
Driving lessons: I thought the first day might do us both in as we navigated the streets of a relatively quiet neighborhood. It slowly got better. And then, before I knew it, she drove away without me. I’ve seen less of her since.
Sweet 16: The pandemic forced us to be creative. We crafted 16 surprises throughout the day which included a drive-by parade and a family dance party where my husband dressed up as Justin Bieber. The quinceañera even does it better.
College applications: They require our children to articulate who they’ve become and what matters to them as well as what they hope to do in the next few years of their lives. I see these as one of the first acts of adulthood that I’ve been privileged to witness.
Prom: Because of COVID, our older daughter missed hers. My younger’s was this past weekend. My favorite part was seeing kids I’ve known since elementary school dressed to the nines. And watching the young men nervously placing corsages on wrists.
Today, to honor the lives lost in Uvalde, I will promise to remember and practice gratitude for all of the school experiences that I’ve been able to share with my daughter, and her sister. And I will take time to mourn for the 19 families whose own memories have been so senselessly cut short.
Finally, please don’t ever, ever talk to me about the right to bear arms. I will never be open to that conversation.