Changing Trains

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Today is a special Monday.  Special or not, it’s still the day that forever catches me by surprise and dishes out something unpleasant for me to deal with (case in point this morning and a puking dog).

Today marks more transitions for the kids.  My daughter graduates from Grade 8 today; my son from Grade 6 tomorrow.  I can more readily appreciate my daughter’s transition from middle schooler to high schooler – she is a totally different being than she was two years ago in both appearance and attitude.  With my son, it’s far more difficult.  He still looks like a little boy to me, albeit a bit ganglier and more angular in the face – all traces of baby fat gone.  He’s having trouble with his voice – is it about to change?  The thought fills me with dread.

When my daughter entered Grade 7, we were new to the city, we were living in temporary housing.  Everything was up in the air.  We, frankly, worried more about our son’s entry into life in Toronto because he was so opposed to the move.  Our daughter was pumped.  An outgoing, gregarious girl, we figured Grade 7 would be just like any other grade once she got into the swing of things and made a few friends.

It’s amazing how wrong we can be sometimes.

While we coaxed and cajoled our son into his new environs, our daughter barrelled full speed into Grade 7.  That’s her style – full throttle all the way.  When she was one, she sat atop the highest toboggan hill in the history of the world in her slipperly little snowsuit, pushed off with her chubby little hands, and was hurtling down on her well padded bottom before anyone could stop her.  I stood helplessly at the top watching as my husband, in clunky snow boots, struggled to catch up to the little human projectile before she broke her neck. The only sound I heard was the sound of my daughter’s voice:  “Weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!”

Grade 7 was a lot like that day.  We underestimated the scope of change from small city school in Calgary to huge inner city school in Toronto.  It was like going from the little kiddie choo-choo at an amusement park to the bullet train.  It wasn’t until November that we realized how far away from us she was (report card).  She took the inch of freedom given and stretched it to about a hundred miles.  She was having a blast, we were getting gray hairs.  It takes a bullet train a looooooooong time to stop even with someone standing on the brakes.

Grade 8:  different story.  Our daughter understood the effect rash choices had on academics and to some extent, on life.  She’s not all the way there yet but I send her off to Grade 9 feeling more confident in her ability to apply the brakes herself, if need be.  But what of my son?

He is the cautious one.  He doesn’t have his sister’s hell-for-leather personality.  He is introspective and insecure.  At the same time, he is in-your-face-brilliant.   At night when the lights are off and we’re saying our final good nights, he laments the loss of his childhood (at age 11).  “Things were so easy when I was little, Mom.”  Don’t I know it.  What to say?  I try to balance calming his fears with giving him realistic expectations.  Grade 7 with its mind-boggling mix of personalities, sizes, and yes, agendas, is a tough year for all students.   There are boys in Grade 7 who are already shaving, who are 6 feet tall, and seem at a complete loss as to how to handle their new man-sized bodies.   The same can be said for the girls who either dress like they’re in Grade 5 again or go all out looking like Katy Perry.  Some kids will hide until Christmas; some will be looking for a fight on September 7, eager to establish their dominance and territory early.  Where will my son fit in?  Will he fit in? God, please let him fit in.  Let him have a happy year as the last two have been so hard for him.

We are off to Europe in July – the kids will see things, taste things, and experience different things.  The trip will be good for them.  My son is off for a week (flying on his own for the first time) to visit a friend at his cottage on the lovely Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec.  He will test for his black belt in early July.  He will be fine.  My daughter…oh my oh my.  She will take Europe by storm and leave a trail of gasping, heart-broken Mediterranean boys in her wake.  She will sleep as much as possible and quite possibly whine incessantly when awake.  That is her God-given right as a teenage girl.  She too will be fine.

Today and tomorrow we will toast our kids for jobs well done.  They are good kids with good report cards and even better hearts and minds.  They are about to change trains again, their parents a little further back on the platform now.

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