Today did not start out well. My 8th grade son burst into my bedroom, looking for a ride to school. This was cataclysmic for a number of reasons: first off, I hadn’t had any coffee. Not a drop. I hadn’t even managed to stumble to the coffee maker. I had gotten as far as standing up and then tumbling backward across the bed while muttering, “No, no, nononoNO!” into the crook of my arm, which is how he found me. Actually, this is what passes for a pretty good morning for me. My entire life, waking up has been a borderline violent act. It feels as if I’ve been transported in and then unceremoniously dumped from a large, dark, burlap sack. I’m disoriented, I have no idea where I am or how the hell I got there. I am not yet the delightful person I become after one, okay, three cups of coffee. Approaching me at this delicate time to ask for an unforeseen favor is slightly dangerous at best.
Second, today was his 8th grade commencement ceremony; an event I have endured three times previously and have enjoyed exactly zero of them. For starters, and with the distinct danger of tarnishing my already tattered parenting reputation, I do not care about random people’s children. I mean, I do, in the sense that I want them to have affordable healthcare and a quality education and the freedom and safety to express their religious and gender preferences, but not in a manner that necessitates my watching a twenty-seven minute slideshow of photos documenting their basketball games or mid-year choir concert. I know, I know, I’m terrible, but remember the entire thing is set to whatever twerking pop star’s music is popular at the moment, so who is the real victim here? Me. That’s who.
And, third, it was way too early in the morning to be forced to confront my own hypocrisy. See, the unspoken reason he wanted me to drive him to school, instead of riding his bike as we had previously agreed upon, was because his hair was looking particularly fine and he did not want to mess it up before the ceremony. If that ain’t my kid, I don’t know who is. Both my boys morphed into extremely hair-intensive young men. And though I loudly and vehemently complain about their demands for frequent hair cuts and specific styling products, secretly, I find it amusing beyond words. But, later. Say, noon-ish.
The whole morning put me so far off my game, that when I stopped for coffee, blessed coffee, after dropping him off at school, I literally threw the car into park and without a thought in my head, left it idling outside the coffee shop. I stopped just short of leaping from the open door and letting it roll off down the street without me. It’s the sort of mental lapse that makes me worry about my twilight years.
The ceremony went pretty much as expected. It was long enough that I could feel the life draining from my body, the auditorium was stiflingly hot, the microphones kept fading in and out…but you know what? That’s fine. these ceremonies are not for me or any other parent. They are for our kids. Our kids who are delighted to see pictures of their friends or their teachers mugging for the camera. Who understand all the private jokes their teachers reference in the speeches. Who deserve to have this moment of recognition because they are still precious and it is so important to let them know this fact.
So I waited for my son outside the auditorium. I gave him a huge hug and apologized for my bear-like demeanor this morning. I told him how proud of him I am, and how happy. And I am. Mostly because he has become a kind and intelligent and interesting young man and because he’s my baby, after all…which means I never have to do this again.