Those of you who’ve been around here for years know that it’s been my tradition ever since we moved to Georgia to post a picture of my kids’ shoes on the first day of school. It not only works well with that whole Witness Protection Program thing my kids have going on, to me it’s always felt like the most iconic representation of the new school year. Even once it became “uncool” to sport new kicks on the first day.
If I’d bothered to think about it, I guess I would’ve imagined that the first day of high school would’ve been the same way—a picture of shoes, an excited but nervous launch into the next chapter, and maybe even the realization that my days of shoe pictures have only a few more years to go. (Unless Chickie wanted to send me a picture of her shoes from college, which actually seems like something she might do, come to think of it. Or would’ve done, prior to… you know. All of this.)
Instead, today is supposed to be Chickadee’s first day of high school and it isn’t. Despite the hard work I’m doing every day on acceptance and living in the moment and staying positive, last night this kind of hit me like a ton of bricks, and this morning isn’t much better. It’s supposed to be today. Today is supposed to be a day full of promise for her, and I’m sad it’s not. I don’t know how not to grieve this.
Yesterday I got a call from the hospital, and then I got to listen to a staff member recite a long litany of ways in which Chickadee had made a series of poor choices that day. Did she remember today was the first day of school? Was something else going on? She becomes inscrutable when things go bad, all crossed arms and stony defiance and emotional distance that feels like we’ll never reach her again. I would not get an explanation from her, later, but I didn’t really expect one.
“Thank you for filling me in,” I said, at the end of the recitation. “I’m sorry it was a bad day.”
“You’re welcome,” the woman said. I was fine, up until then, but then I was caught off guard. “She’s a really neat kid,” she continued, this woman who gets to spend more time with my child than I do, these days. “I just love her. She’s so smart. She has such interesting things to say, she thinks about stuff in an amazing way no one else does. I just love talking with her. But today wasn’t her day, you know?”
“I know,” I finally managed to say.
She IS such a neat kid. Under it all. But still, some days she’s just… gone. Anger spews from her every pore, instead, and when she returns, she’s sad.
Chickadee got on the phone with me. “Anything else you want to tell me about what happened?” I asked, trying to keep my voice neutral.
“No,” she said. “She told you everything.”
“You wanted to come home for a night this weekend,” I reminded her. “Are you coming home for a night, now?”
“No ma’am,” she said, immediately. Then, in a small voice: “I wasn’t thinking about that when it happened. But then I remembered, after.” I heard a small, shuddery sigh.
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say.
“It’s my own fault, I know,” she said (progress!), “but I’m sad now.”
“Me too, Kiddo. Me, too.”
So on the one hand, today is and is not the first day of high school. I heard the bus go by while I was sitting here at my desk, and I just kept typing while the tears fell.
On the other hand, today is… Monkey’s third day of high school. Hippie School resumes next week, but this year Monkey’s doing three days of Hippie School and two high school virtual school classes, and virtual school started on Monday. He’s taking a science class and a language arts class, and already I can see this may be the most amusing thing ever.
The online system uses a bulletin board like thing for class discussions, and it’s customary for each virtual school class to start off with a “getting to know you” discussion. The kids are encouraged to post an introduction, interact with their peers, etc. So Monkey sat down on Monday and posted his introduction, and then we looked through some of the others. Listen, I knew he’d probably be the youngest kid in there, but there’s nothing quite like watching your kid post:
My name is Monkey and I am a homeschooler in 7th grade. I love science! And I have an awesome dog named Licorice who is a Shih-Poo (Shih Tzu/Poodle mix).
And then seeing that the other kids have posted things like:
My name is Macho McManly and I am a high school senior headed into the Air Force. I’ll ship out as soon as this class is over. My hobbies include fixing up my muscle car and bench pressing 450 pounds.
Part of the task was to “post thoughtful responses to at least two of your peers,” which to my darling son meant things like reading a three-paragraph introduction from someone that ended “P.S. I also think waffles are awesome,” and responding, “I also enjoy waffles!” HAAAAAAAAAAAA.
Sooooo… yeah. Also, Monkey prefers to work on virtual school while barefoot, so, you know, no shoe pics for him, either.
In summary: High schooler, not starting high school. Boo, woe, sad, frustrated, tired of this, etc. Middle schooler, starting high school and strutting his social awkwardness. Interesting, amusing, letting our freak flag fly, etc.
But… no shoes.
If you need some shoe pictures, you can take a quick stroll down memory lane [here you go: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007]. I did, this morning, and ohhhhh did last year’s post stir up some Big Feelings. Hindsight, man. It’s a stabby thing these days. Woulda coulda shoulda, and all of that.
I don’t know how to properly commemorate this day full of weirdness or how to get this elephant off my chest. Maybe I’ll make Monkey some waffles later.