By Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor, OpEdNews
May 25, 2008
“For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” I don’t even have to close my eyes to hear the Byrds’ rendition of this classic from my youth. For my family, this is a season of milestones – one of which is Michael’s imminent graduation from high school. It’s definitely time to kvell (a tremendously useful and juicy Yiddish word which means to swell with pride over the accomplishments of your near and dear).
It’s inevitable that, at moments like this one, we cast our minds back to what has led up to this occasion. I have many fond memories of this adaptable little guy, who from the time he was a few weeks old, had his afternoon nap regularly interrupted for carpool. He got schlepped along everywhere. His easygoing attitude was aided and abetted by the fact that he idolized his big sisters. In fact, for quite some time, he followed them around like an eager puppy, barging into their room to hang out with them and their friends until he was forcibly evicted for hogging the attention. For a time, it seemed as if he thought he was a teenage girl rather than a fun-loving toddler of the male persuasion.
Even his earliest photographs captured his love of life and tremendous sense of humor. He was simply adorable. Being a singleton after twins undoubtedly added to his appeal for me. He was so easy! There was such a large age gap – almost ten years – because we had been endlessly waiting for the girls to live in harmony before producing another family member. Those two argued about absolutely everything – at full volume, often right outside our door. Sometimes, it seemed like they argued for the sake of arguing. (While we were certain that they could put their talents to good use as future trial lawyers, it was scant comfort at the time.) Our friend Maria assured us that they would miraculously get along once they left home, so we took a leap of faith and stopped waiting. In case you’re wondering, ultimately, Maria proved to be right.
That little tyke of yesteryear has morphed into a wonderfully inquisitive student who thrives on challenge. Second semester senior year, the time when most students slack off, he took four Advanced Placement classes. This insatiable curiosity bodes well for his future studies. The fact that he has developed close mentoring relationships with some of his teachers has been a big plus and illustrates one of the many advantages of a small school.
A number of years ago, I learned that by the time a child hits adolescence, he has already internalized all of the parental messages that have accumulated over the years. Anything afterwards is basically beside the point. This was simultaneously a scary and liberating thought. While the study didn’t imply that a parent’s work is done and it’s time for an extended vacation, it has allowed me to lighten up a bit and to have faith in Michael’s ability to make good choices.
Thursday was another milestone for me, although more minor in nature. After more than two decades, I drove my last school carpool. Carpool is a modern invention that I have found alternately cumbersome, annoying and very helpful. Within a short period of time, you become incredibly dependent upon a few other mothers you may hardly know. A good carpool is worth its weight in gold – where drivers easily share and exchange duties as needed, and passengers are on time, polite, and conscious – more or less. I have been almost uniformly lucky over the years; either that, or my memory has whited out the bad stuff. It doesn’t matter; in either case, I’m done.
For the last year or so, I have driven carpool on mornings when I immediately head to the Y for a swim before work. I wear my suit under my clothes and pack my gym bag, tossing it in the trunk. This past Thursday, I had an appointment in the afternoon, so I was particularly mindful of how annoyingly slow traffic was, on the way to school. On the way back, it was even worse; there was an accident and things slowed to a crawl and then stopped altogether. Once I finally arrived at the Y, I discovered that I had left my gym bag at home, so I wasn’t able to swim after all. This had never happened before and I was extremely exasperated. Then, I realized that not only would it never happen again, it couldn’t happen again because my carpool career was now over. All of my frustration dissipated completely as I contemplated the end of an era.
I admit to a very slight emptiness where that carpool puzzle piece once resided. But I have come to view motherhood like a stream of moving water, constantly shifting and changing. The cast of characters trade leading roles among themselves depending on the period and the circumstances, and I find myself continually adapting to the new patterns. I will adjust to life without carpool, too; I have no doubt. My schedule will fill in the carpool slots as if they never existed and, other than occasional nostalgia, I will be just fine.
Graduation will take place this Wednesday evening. In the meantime, before I get too emotional, I want to state for the record that I am incredibly proud of the Mickster – of his accomplishments and the wealth of possibilities open to him because of his hard work. I’m truly excited about his prospects. His good head and warm, caring heart indicate that he has much to offer towards Tikkun Olam – making the world a better place. Way to go, Mick! Continue to make good choices and you will go far! Of that, I have no doubt.