I was one of those parents who dreaded the end of the school year. Because I am a planner, my angst would begin the minute spring break ended. While it was great to not wear socks anymore, I knew what was coming my way: If being busy were an extreme sport, I could have been a gold medal contender.
By the time I flipped the calendar to May, if I wasn’t attending an event, getting ready to go somewhere, or getting someone else ready, then I knew I was forgetting something. With three kids and a job teaching at our local high school, the last weeks of the year were defined by not having one spare minute.
This spring, however, is filled with a kind of silence that I was not prepared for.
Now that my kids have all graduated from high school, I have become more of a spectator and sherpa than an organizer. When they come home from college they see home as a refuge where they can relax, get fed, and take it easy. They want it quiet.
So many of the people I would see at school functions, community events, and athletic contests are not on the radar as much as they used to be. That doesn’t mean we like each other less, but our paths just don’t cross the way they used to.
Although I hadn’t planned for this, I am also not teaching right now, so for the first time in 25 years, I’m not running my life according to a high school bell schedule. I don’t need to set aside a few hours at Panera to meet with students, and I don’t need to carve out time to grade essays or write recommendations or plan classes or meet with colleagues.
As the person who has always looked ahead, not back, I never thought I would write or say these words, but I miss it all – truly, madly, deeply.
I miss highlighting all the school events that pertained to my three kids, all at different schools. There’s nothing like having a band concert to attend on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, plus all the orchestra, choir, and theatre events I attended to support my students.
I miss marking up the calendar with my own color key – a different hue for each kid – to record soccer, baseball, and lacrosse (for a minute) games and tennis matches.
I miss “watching” those games with my gal pals. I will never forget standing beside my mom crew on a windy, snow-wet Mother’s Day as we watched our boys play soccer and wondered why there were no sporting events on the calendar for Father’s Day. Oh, the laughs we had and the bonds we made as we froze our asses off no matter how well we dressed.
I miss cooking at 11 pm so that there would be food to eat in the three and half minutes when someone was home to shovel something in. I even miss racing to Costco to get Gatorade and the much-debated team snack that needed to be nut-free and somewhat healthy, the cake for Senior Day, or the fixings for the ice cream sundae party I hosted for my students.
I miss sitting down at the kitchen table on Thursday to write a minute-by-minute schedule for the week. On Friday night, my husband and I would convene to go over the schedule and then, Mission Impossible style, I would hand him is documents.
I miss getting up early on Saturday morning to have my husband ask me to repeat what he had to do just one more time because apparently Friday night was too long ago. Never was someone so good at looking like he was listening but taking in nothing.
I miss spending the day driving my super-cool mini-van full of smelly boys from the morning soccer game to the afternoon soccer game, then to the baseball diamond. On many days, we’d arrive just in time for the onset of thunderstorms that delayed or canceled the game – spring is naughty that way.
I miss racing home between work to walk the dog and then bolting to watch my kid in his tennis match, knowing full well that I would be too late for the first set and perhaps the entire match. I still hope I got credit for effort.
I miss the absolute frenzy of wrapping up the school year and getting kids ready for camp. There’s nothing like going to Target to shop for graduation gifts, teacher gifts, and camp toiletries all at the same time.
I miss hustling through the last weeks of the year with my students as we read Macbeth just before final exams. I can picture my juniors wearing purple and black witches’ hats and circling around the cauldron as they acted out Act 4, Scene 1 of the play. “Double, double toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble” just doesn’t get old.
I miss hugging my seniors as they leave the classroom one last time. In our final days together we celebrated how far they had come, reflected on the challenges they’d faced, and anticipated the adventures ahead.
I miss shoehorning in the senior recitals and grad parties for my students, feeling so honored to have been invited. There is something magical about seeing students in their element and having the opportunity to enjoy the moment with their parents and friends.
If I were being completely honest, I would go back through this list and mark the things that I don’t miss so much. And there are probably a few that I really don’t miss at all.
But what I do miss is the sense of purpose that comes from being needed as a parent and as a teacher; that feeling that in some way or other, I’m helping others find their place in the universe.
I know that I will get used to the new sound of my life, and that I will ultimately embrace it. I just hope that in this moment of silence, I will be able to discover a new purpose, one that gives me as much joy and meaning as the past 25 years have.