M started Grade 8 this week. He was in Grade 7 last year, so logically he’s in Grade 8. I’m trying to figure out how we got to the last year of middle school so fast. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I waited with M for the bus for the first day of Grade 1 (an ill-fated foray into the gifted program which lasted barely two weeks) and waited anxiously for him to come home safely so we could talk about his day. The intervening years have had their ups and downs. Some of them seemed like they would never end – endless trails of suspension notices or meetings with officious school board staff. The last couple of years, however, have been less eventful. M has become increasingly able to manage his behaviour and requires less and less in the way of parental interference. Without the drama, time speeds up. Last year flew by in a flash.
On the first day of school, M was up and out of the house more than an hour before school started, anxious to see his friends and find out who was in his class. I still wanted to hear about his day when I got home, but it’s getting him to talk to me is a matter of timing. His focus is turned increasingly outward, away from me – it’s all about his friends, Instagram and what’s on YouTube. I expect that if I catch M at the right moment, I’ll hear a little bit about what’s happening at school. I’ll probably meet with his home room teacher once or twice between now and June. But he’s becoming his own person, with a distinct persona that is largely separate from me. Next year, M will start high school. In five years, he’ll be graduating high school. Slowly, surely, he’s cutting those apron ties – we’ve only got a few “first days of school” left to share.
All this is a cause for celebration. I want M to continue to grow and thrive. As much as I want our relationship to stay the same, I know that’s neither practical nor desirable. Relationships aren’t static and the parent-child dynamic changes constantly. Sometimes several times in one day. M was sweetness and light when he in the mornings this week and was Captain cranky-pants at the end of the day. On the first day back, he yelled at me when I called after school to find out if he got caught in the rain coming home (well, duh). and hung up the phone. He’s been pretty even-tempered over the last few weeks, but going back to school means a big change in routine. While M did have to get up and out of the house 5 days a week for camp, playing tennis all day was fun. Even the excitement of seeing his friends is slightly overshadowed by the prospect of following rules, daily schedules and class work. Since M’s school isn’t big on homework, except in the case of unfinished assignments, I pointed out to him that completing his assignments in class would reduce the likelihood of having to do work at home.
Whether he follows this nugget of wisdom is up to him. He’s perfectly aware how much he’s doing (or not doing) at school – on a recent drive past his future high school and he told me he’s probably have to do some work in Grade 9, because “they can fail you in high school.” I’m not sure this is true, but he needs to figure out how to navigate this year and the following four on his own. I can encourage him and help him figure out what he needs to succeed, but the rest is up to him.
Even though our relationship is changing, he still needs me to make him pancakes in the morning and help him put his lunch together. I get the occasional hug and kiss, mixed in with world-weary tone and rolling of eyes. My sweet boy is growing up.