The school put on a first rate culmination program for the fifth grade. Too bad I don't have any good photos to post here. One reason is that the kids were lined up in alpha order (instead of by height), so views of my little gymnast were blocked by all the tall kids who surrounded her. So I'm posting this photo of Megan from last week, before we took her to her Fifth Grade Dance.
"They're too young for this," my husband fumed when he found out that a dance was one of the activities.
I assured him that at this age, the girls would all be dancing with each other while the boys watched from the sidelines -- but they would come back telling us they had fun. And they did.
The culmination had a Hawaiian theme. The kids had spent weeks learning songs like "Pineapple Princess" and "Hooky Lau." But they also studied the history of our 50th state, and conveyed the idea that "Aloha" means farewell (to elementary school) as well as hello (middle school). Megan was one of several kids who had written short poems that were recited through the program. I was also surprised to find out that she was one of about five kids who had earned a gold President's Education Award.
But the highlight of the program for me was when the kids came out to the audience to present leis to their parents. Until then, I'd been holding it all in, but when Megan brought me my lei, I started blubbering like a baby.
I sobbed again yesterday when I dropped her off at the school for the last time. Over our six years there, that little school was the center of our family community, and it's going to feel weird not being part of it. And because it's located in the middle of three different middle school districts, I found myself saying goodbye to a lot of parents -- we actually don't know a lot of kids who will be attending the same middle school with Megan. It will definitely be a new beginning for both of us.
It was kind of anticlimactic that there was still one more minimum day of school following the culmination ceremony, so the fifth grade teachers decided to set up a "field trip" -- they walked all the kids to a nearby park and held a picnic.
I think Megan's memories of this experience would have been perfect, until I picked her up from that school for the last time. As I got to her classroom, one of her friends begged me to let Megan come to the swim party.
The swim party. As soon as I saw the flyer (which was in her backpack last week), I knew that was going to be trouble. My friend Betty, when she was PTA President, was fond of holding meetings in backyards with pools, so the kids could swim while we took care of business. The problem was that there was never an adult appointed to watch the kids in the pool. I could never focus on business because all I wanted to do was see that the kids were OK. I finally swore off swim parties last year, when I brought Megan to a friend's house, only to discover that ALL of the parents had dropped off their kids and that the host parent had no intention of staying in the backyard to watch them. So I ended up staying.
I realize that by this age (10 and 11), these kids know how to swim. But they are still KIDS. They don't have good judgment. And I'm sorry to say, neither do most of my fellow parents. At that party, I had to remind them not to run around the pool. I had to step in when they tried to force other girls to jump in when they weren't comfortable. I didn't like taking on that role. Nothing happened that day -- but I worried that if one of the girls was hurt, I would be sued because I'm the one who took responsibility for watching them while the hostess puttered around in her kitchen.
Most of Megan's friends were going to the party. "I'm probably not even going to go in the water," she pleaded. "I'm never going to see all of them together again," she cried. I told her that she could see anyone she wanted to see; all she had to do was pick up the phone and arrange it.
"I never have any time!" she said. That's true -- during the school year. But summer is different. Even though she's in gym from 9 to 2, Monday through Friday -- that's like a normal school schedule. She has no homework, no Hebrew school or other structured afternoon activities, and her weekends are free. In the summer, she's got plenty of time to have fun with friends outside of gym.
She was really crying now, and I was feeling bad. I wavered a bit and started questioning her friends about the party: "Are your parents staying or are they dropping you off?" Without exception, the kids were being dropped off. I had a vision of that last party she went to, where I was the only adult watching the kids. I could not get comfortable with the idea, so once again, I said "NO."
And felt bad all afternoon. And felt worse when Megan refused to talk to me until it was time to take her to gym. And even worse when her friend Maggie (who is both a classmate and a teammate) showed up and told us that only about five kids showed up at the party.
"No, there were about 25 kids," her mom said. "And about eight parents. Everyone was watching," she added.
Well, that could be. But I cannot remove the experience of those PTA meeting/swim parties, where watching the kids was so hard to do because our focus was elsewhere. And a one-to-three parent-to-child ratio is not as good as one-on-one.
"I wasn't worried," my friend said, "because Maggie is an excellent swimmer. We swim in the ocean all the time."
The thing is, it's not the swimming that worried me. It's the lack of judgment. It's the fact that they are KIDS.
The bottom line is that I made the right decision for our family. I should feel good about that, but I don't. That's because this episode is just the first of many more hard decisions I'm going to have to make about my daughter's social life, and I'm not relishing it.
The next few years are going to be HARD.