Hello, my name is Karen and I am a crier.
I like to sob during Hallmark commercials, children’s choir performances and episodes of the Biggest Loser. I hyperventilated through the beginning of the movie Up and the end of Toy Story 3.
So it should be no surprise to me that I have been a weepy tub of goo for the past three weeks. Missy, my oldest, finishes grade school today. For me, it’s really the end of the innocence. (Begin humming to Don Henley here.)
Why is it that as a mom, there are so many long-ass days, yet the years literally fly by? I can’t begin to count how many times I would check the clock to see if it was bedtime. Or have the kids run to the end of the block to see if daddy was walking home from the train yet.
What the hell was the hurry?
Did I ever stop and take it all in?
The past six years of Missy’s time at grade school are a blur. (It doesn’t help that I can’t remember yesterday.) Most of the time, I spent worrying.
I know that it’s pretty natural for the firstborn to cause the most anxiety. It’s the fear of the unknown. I washed all her baby clothes in Dreft before they would ever touch her skin. With Junior, I tore the tags off with my teeth and threw him in a new outfit.
But with Missy, it was different.
From the moment that she was yanked into this world with forceps, she always had a little something wacky going on.
I swear that I did not drink, do recreational drugs or dye my hair during my pregnancy. And I do not have that munchkin disease where you make stuff up about your kid being sick. However, I am a borderline munchkin because I am five feet nothing.
It started with a giant mole on her head that had to be removed since it had a 50/50 chance of turning into cancer. That involved a couple of surgeries and a tissue expander. Imagine a nine-month old with a giant boob implant on her noggin. (That is a whole other post.)
Then she has some kind of lump on her back, but that turned out to be nothing and went away. From age two to five, I had Poison Control on speed dial as she dined on lead paint chips, prescription drugs and grease-mop-up stuff for the driveway.
Yes, it was all on my watch.
Alopecia in Kindergarten left her with a bald spots that I covered up with precisely placed half ponytails. First grade was the year of occupational therapy for sensory issues and core strength. Her world turned upside-down in second grade when Tom lost his job and I went back to work. She also had to help him a lot when he tore his Achilles and was “crippled” according to her.
In third grade, she had chronic ear and sinus infections, got her tonsils and adenoids removed, then got mono and missed a total of 53 days of school. It was at this point I asked my doctor for happy pills that made me crazier. Missy got caught up and passed thanks to the most adorable home tutor: an Irish nun— Sister Mary Margaret herself.
In fourth grade, she struggled with staying focused and was misdiagnosed by our doctor. The problem turned out to be related to her lack of core strength, so she was back to OT for another six months.
Fifth grade started out a little rocky with insomnia issues that lasted over a month. I was very helpful and bought every sleep cream, sound machine and meditation book on the market. When that failed, I would just try to scream her back to sleep. That did not work either.
Then, out of nowhere, she found her groove. She got a small part in the local children’s theatre group and scored well enough to finally get into the accelerated reading group. (Her goal for three years, not her slacker mom’s.)
She surrounded herself with a great group of friends who are comfortable acting goofy rather than acting older. She learned how to use her sewing machine and met two of her Project Runway idols.
She dressed to the nines every single day of school and cut her hair short to give her more of an “edge.” She was involved with choir, patrol, student council, running club and Girl Scouts. Her confidence soared and I kept nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I was most concerned about the legendary Fifth Grade Talent Show that is a big deal at our school. The kids practice for weeks on their acts. Some choose comedy skits, musical numbers, dance routines — there are a few brave solo acts.
And my kid was one of them.
She is a natural ham, so it was no surprise that she wanted to write a comedic rap about doing time at her grade school to some popular song that I am too square to know.
She stepped out on stage and faced the audience of 350+ people decked out in a flat-brimmed cap, black pleather coat, big necklace, wife-beater, Chuck Taylors and shades. My heart was thumping in the back of my throat.
Then she started.
The words flowed. Her head bopped to the beat. She started stepping side to side. The audience laughed at the right places. Missy fed off their energy. She remembered all the words. At the end, she thanked the crowd and threw up a peace sign as she ducked back behind the curtain.
It was frickin’ magical.
I have been proud of Missy’s accomplishments before, but this was different.
I was in absolute awe of her.
And I started to cry.
For the first time in 10 years, I feel that she’s going to be okay.
Not sure about me…