Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The midpoint

Michael's year of kindergarten was a wonderful experience, for him as a 6-year-old student, and for us at parents. Our school, The Open Classroom, is a unique type of learning environment, with parents helping out in the classroom and becoming an integral part of a robust community. Lori and I took turns co-oping in the classroom, watching Michael grow and interact, working with other kids, developing a deep admiration for the teacher, and making new friends with the other parents.

Michael on his first day of kindergarten, September 2009.
That first year of kindergarten was tremendous. And, just like every other aspect of our children's lives, it zipped by far too quickly. From that first day when another boy thanked Michael for playing with him during recess, to the circle talks and snack times and playdates, to Ben wanting to sit in on the last few minutes of class every time I picked his brother up, to the field trips and changing seasons, to the class campout (we just went for the afternoon -- remember, Lori and I don't like camping ...) and the last days of school -- it all vivid and a blur at the same time. There were tears from many of the parents that final day as they watched a video from the year a dad had put together. Kindergarten was wonderful, for the kids and for the families.

I was sad that last day, too, but knew it was just the beginning. Ben would have his own kindergarten experience. The school was a K-8, and we would have another decade at The Open Classroom, 11 years total between both boys. Our time with this wonderful school was still at the start.

This week includes the 90th school day of 180 of the 2014-15 calendar. Michael is a fifth-grader and Ben is in third. Five-and-a-half years ago, Michael started kindergarten. Five-and-a-half years from now, Ben will finish eighth grade. That last day of kindergarten when I thought we had so much time left was in 2010.

We've reached our OC midpoint.

Michael before entering school for his first day of kindergarten.
That's Ben in the orange shirt in the background.
There have been ups and downs, bumps in the road, fist-pumping triumphs, and everything in between. The boys have loved the first 5 1/2 years, as have we. They have made great friends, as have we. Some families we were close to have left the school -- and we've stayed in touch with some -- but that's just par for the course for parents with kids who are school-aged: Sometimes, people move. 

Nonetheless, I still am humbled that five years ago, I thought we had a lot of time at this school. Of course, 11 years is a lot of time. However, when you are a parent, the reality that I find is continually reinforced is that 11 years is nothing. I've lamented about this before -- this is the one thing no one ever tells you about parenting, and if they did, you never comprehend it until that kid is in the crib, on your lap, in the car seat, running around, playing with their toys, having birthday after birthday, starting school, playing sports, growing taller, getting smarter, and even just sitting there on the couch watching TV.

The one thing: The time they are kids is finite, and it goes by way too damn fast.

We're at the midpoint. Come September, we're at the midpoint of them both being at college and potentially out of the house. All I can tell myself is this:

Every dinner. Every basketball game and swim meet. Every vacation. Every car ride to school and back. Every co-op shift in their classrooms. Every board game played. Every conversation. Every joy. Every struggle. Every year, every month, every week, every day, every hour, every minute, every second. Every smile. Joe, be sure appreciate and cherish them all.

I like to think I have done this; I hope I have, but at this midpoint, I want to be certain that I'm particularly cognizant about this going forward, because these midpoints, and any new starting points in the coming years, will have endpoints. There's no time to waste.


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