In 1988, an excited, young mom sent her oldest daughter off to her first day of kindergarten. The little 5-year-old was dressed in a homemade red skirt, white print top and white sandals with her curly hair bouncing in the sunshine. She was eager to start her school career with her main excitement being, “We get two recesses!” (Not realizing she’d had full-time recess for the last five years.)
As the young mom walked her daughter into Mrs. Cook’s kindergarten classroom at Beehive Elementary, and waved good-bye, a rush of sadness/elation washed over her.
Fast-forward to 2012 as a much older, much grumpier mom sends her youngest daughter off to her first day of her senior year of high school. Wearing new Converse shoes and carrying a new backpack, she trundles off to school as a feeling of sadness/elation washes over me. After 24 years of experiencing the public education system, this time of my life is coming to an end.
I figured that between my four daughters I’ve attended more than 100 parent-teacher conferences (the time equivalent of traveling to Mars and back several times), volunteered nearly 1,000 hours at various schools, served on a dozen PTA boards, and driven a grazillion hours for car pools.
During the last quarter century I’ve been on at least 50 field trips that included bus rides from hell to the zoo or planetarium, hikes up to Ensign Peak (don’t EVER hike with elementary school children) and trying to herd small groups of fifth graders through Thanksgiving Point without anyone jumping the fence to chase the goats.
My daughters have had many, many good teachers, several bad teachers and even a few who were totally indifferent to the education process. We’ve been through year-round school schedules, traditional school schedules and one horrific year of year-round junior high school. (THAT was a bad idea.)
I’ve shelled out more than $1,000 for school pictures, wrapping paper, cookie dough, book fairs, calendars, and at least another billion dollars for school registration and class fees. I’ve sat through band concerts, choral performances, Christmas programs (complete with felt antlers) and science fairs. I’ve endured/survived 400 hours of being a crash-test dummy for driver’s ed and many homework fiascos because my daughters “forgot” the 20-page research paper was due the next day.
I can’t BEGIN to count the number of books I’ve read to my daughters, how many they read to me, how many spelling words I’ve practiced, how many times I recited the 7 times tables or how many Valentine’s Day boxes I’ve made from Quaker oats containers and spaghetti.
Several dozen report cards have crossed my kitchen table, usually accompanied by “I just don’t know how I got a C in geometry. I turned everything in. I promise.” or “I think my teacher hates me. That’s why I failed.” And I’ve received a handful of computerized phone calls letting me know my “Son or daughter missed one, or more, classes today.”
So it all comes down to this last young lady. The last year I’ll take any of my daughters shopping for school clothes. The last year I’ll make sure she’s up and moving so she won’t be late. The last year I’ll ever have to go to parent-teacher conferences. And the last year I’ll be checking up on homework and helping someone study for tests.
After all this is done, I must say I feel much more sadness than elation. The years go by so quickly and, believe me, I’d do it all again. Every second.
A half-century of public school education and it comes down to one final year. Sad.