For months now I have had mixed emotions about this day. I have experienced it once with my oldest daughter Carly and did not handle it well. Then, my first born was moving on to the next chapter in her schooling. But I really wasn’t sure how I would handle my baby, Claire, going through the same process. Would it be easier or harder?
Claire’s 5th grade year was not quite what I had thought it would be years ago. We decided to move the summer before. Up until then, I kind of knew what it would be like at her previous school Pine Forest Elementary. I knew the teachers. I knew there would be 5th grade play in the winter. Space Camp in May. And all the other events to spend with the friends you had been classmates since Kindergarten with. But with the move all of that changed. And I wasn’t sure what to expect.
There were opportunities for her to find her way. She joined 5th grade Chorus and Optimist Club. She began making new friends. It was a slow process but she was adjusting and finding her way. Maybe better than me. Before we knew it, the school year was coming to a close. Yearbooks were passed out. For the first time I could care less to look at it. Except for her 5th grade ad we put in for her. I knew none of the kids and it felt like looking at a strangers school memories. Luckily, she enjoyed seeing people she had gotten to know and even found herself in a few pages within.
With the passing out of yearbooks came the upcoming graduation. At this point it was just formality to be at school. Very little education was happening within the 5th grade. They were ready to move on. The week of graduation approached and it was full of activities. A skating field trip, 5th grade talent show, graduation rehearsal and finally, the big day. Claire was excited. She had been looking forward to this day for weeks now. I was still unsure about myself.
We found her perfect dress and shoes. She picked out her hairstyle. She was ready. Today was the day. She woke in the morning. We all began getting ready, even Carly. Luck have it, Carly did not have any finals to take this day so she had the day off of school. Due to rushing around, doing hair, getting ready, I honestly didn’t think much about what the day was. I can do this.
We dropped Claire off at school at her normal time. We went to the local grocery store to get her some flowers to celebrate. Then we headed to the church next to the school. The students will be bused over to the church before graduation. All the other parents and family members were arriving to get their seats. We were lucky to have Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Suzanne to join us for the big day.
As we were waiting, the administrators and speakers started to arrive. They were showing a slideshow of pictures from this year for each class. Because I didn’t know any of the kids I handled the memories just fine. Then the moment came. The principal made an announcement that at the very moment as we sit there our students are walking down all the hallways of Oriole Beach Elementary so that each class and teacher can see them and say their goodbyes. Even though Claire had not had any other teacher in that school nor did she know any other students younger than her, I began to get teary eyed. It brought back the day 4 years early watching Carly parade down the hall of Pine Forest Elementary for her final goodbye. I could only imagine how much of a mess I would of been if we were still in Arkansas. It was getting close and knowing they were walking their final walk in the building on the way to board the buses was hard. Times like these I wish I was a guy.
I composed myself and luckily there was a long enough break before their arrival to freshen up. Then I heard them. In the back of the sanctuary they were lined up by classes. In just a few minutes they would be walking in as 5th graders but soon will be leaving as middle schoolers. Yes, this is not high school. She is not moving out in two months starting her life. But she is moving on. She is my baby and this moment will not happen again. I’m so happy for her. She is ready. I am not.
The principal begins her speech talking about how she has watched these kids grow from their first days of kindergarten to today. And how she has enjoyed getting to know the students that made OBE 5th grade their first year there. I sat there thinking about Claire’s first day of Kindergarten. She was ready. I was not. Sound familiar. Then another speaker stood and talked about character. Who they should be once entering middle school. Find that person that doesn’t have a friend. Leave no one out. I was inspired and I’m an adult. A video was shown of a track and field race. An inspirational visual about when you fall down get back up and don’t stop until you finish. It’s not about winning. It’s about not giving up. I kindof felt like I was at a high school graduation.
Awards were then started. Claire was called up to receive the President’s Award for Education Excellence and all A/B Honor Roll for all of 5th grade. To my surprise I handled both of those with grace. The tears had slowed and even stopped. I guess the speakers leading up to that point put me in another place. After all awards were given it was time. Each class was called up together. The teacher read each students name and they walked across receiving a Certificate of Promotion from the Principal and a hand shake from the Vice-Principal and the Superintendent of the District. Clair’s class was third. There she was. Lined up and ready. Probably because I was trying to video and take photos as the same time or who knows why, but I didn’t cry. The baby I started off being at the beginning of the day was now all grown up and handling the moment with grace.
She walked up and received her promotion. She gracefully walked her path that she practiced the day before. To our luck it was right in front of where we were sitting. With her head held high she was no longer an elementary school student. She has officially moved on. And I think I’m ok with all of it now.
Of course we had to stay around for pictures with family, friends, teacher and administrators. This moment was only happening once. I had to document it to remember. Which is why I write this blog. To remember these moments that will pass and fade with time.
To all her elementary teachers Ms. Fowlkes, Ms. Davis/Meachum, Ms. Hunt, Ms. Rochelle, Ms. McPeak & Ms. Godfrey – THANK YOU! From here on out her relationships with her teachers will not be the same. She will be one of a hundred or so students. She will not remember all their names nor have that bond she made with each and every one of you. Thank you for being her teacher and helping her be who she is today.