M.’s volleyball team wrapped up their season over the past few days.

Sunday, they played the only other undefeated team in their division. St. P’s won the first game easily, then struggled in the second and lost their first game of the year. I was running the scoreboard and both I and the mom next to me keeping the scorebook were a little antsy. Even more so when St. B’s rushed out to a 5–1 lead in the third game.

But St. P’s rallied, got the lead, and closed it out for a 15–11 win.

Then, in their final regular season game yesterday, they followed the same script. Won the first game convincingly, couldn’t get a serve over the net and lost the second game handily, and after a tense stretch where every serve was a side-out, finally got four-straight points to close it out 15–9.

So they finish the season 7–0. Unlike kickball, where only the division champs go to the tournament, it looks like everyone gets to play in the city volleyball tournament. And it looks like every other undefeated team is on the opposite side of the bracket. If they win their first game, over teams they beat easily already, they’ll have to play the team that pushed them last Sunday to get to the semifinals. If everyone can find their serves again, they have a pretty good shot at the final four.

One of my favorite things about going to school-sponsored sports is how I get to see the girls interact with kids from different grades. My view tends to be limited to what I see when I’m working in the library, managing playdates, or other times when I’m inside the school. And those are almost always moments where it is just one of the girl’s classes on its own.

But at kickball and volleyball games, I see fifth graders run over and give L. hugs. I see C. hanging out with one of her buddies, and then that girl’s sister who is in third grade. When I ask who So-and-so is in the 5th–6th grade game, M. knows and can say hi to them after the game.

This morning at drop off, when L. opened her door she yelled, “Emma!” I looked at the smaller girl walking by, thinking that was Emma. But, instead, a very tall girl smiled and waved to L.. Because the kindergartners all have an Eighth Grade Buddy L. both knows, and looks up to the biggest kids in school.

A couple weeks ago, when I was picking M. up at a friend’s house, the friend’s eighth-grade brother walked into the room and said, “I know your daughter, L.. She’s pretty cool.”

When you have two sisters, relatively close in age, and go to a fairly small school, there’s a lot of overlap. Growing up in fairly large schools[1] and not having siblings meant my friends were almost exclusively from my grade until high school.

I think it’s pretty cool that L. knows a bunch of eighth graders, C. knows who the cool girls in sixth grade are, and M. has the whole K–3 hallway class rosters memorized. And even if they don’t directly know another kid, they often are in class with a sibling or simply know who they are because you kind of know who everyone is anyway.

I’m not saying the same thing can’t happen at a bigger public school. Especially if you have three kids across five grades. But it is way different than how I grew up. And I think the sense of community they have for each other, with the big kids looking out for the little kids and everyone at least passingly famiL.r with everyone else, is a really cool thing.

Once we moved to Kansas City, I remember my school having four classes per grade.  ↩