On August 16, 2010 we began a new chapter in our family life: we sent M off to St. P’s for her first day of kindergarten. Today, we close the book on her life there.

Today is the last day for her eighth grade class. This afternoon they will clear out their lockers, pack up their bags, and walk through a tunnel of their kindergarten buddies at about 2:45. If tradition holds, both the eighth graders and the kindergarteners will be in tears. Outside the school, the class will be blessed by their priest, we’ll take a bunch of pictures, and they will be free to go a few minutes before the rest of the school is dismissed for the day.

For all the physical and emotional changes M has gone through, she is, for the most part, the same person she was when she started. She’s still a little loud; her only consistent behavior issues in nine years have been talking too much in class. She got her mom’s volume; you can always hear her voice over the crowd. She’s always been a sharer. I remember her first grade teacher telling me how M would stand at the door and tell everyone who arrived after her in the mornings any news that she had already heard. She is very stubborn, although we think she has moderated this a little, at least when it comes to dealing with friends. She’s still stubborn as hell with us, though. This morning when trying to take a last day of school picture, she rolled her eyes at me three times when I told her to move. Words were exchanged. Her smile may not have been as dazzling as normal because she was pissed at me.

I see a lot of myself academically in her. I think my interests were broader, but I see a similar streak of laziness and an unwillingness to put too much work in. She’s smart and knows it and thinks showing up is enough. I’m trying to teach her that even putting a little work in can turn those B+’s into A-’s, and A-’s into straight A’s. Like many of her classmates she got the worst grades of her St. P’s career this quarter. Since Christmas break she’s been awfully full of herself and extra dismissive of her sister’s 6th and 4th grade experiences. I’m hoping she shakes the attitude she’s had this quarter and finds more of her mother’s academic drive before she begins high school.

The transition from middle to high school is always big. I think it might be bigger when you’ve been in the same building, with the same classmates and friends, for nine years. Going to high school was no big deal for me. I had switched schools three times growing up, once in the middle of a school year. M has already expressed some concern about how quickly she’ll make friends at CHS and how she’ll miss a few of her best friends who are going to other high schools. I keep telling her she’s never had any trouble around kids her age, and being in a school of 1200+ kids presents so many more opportunities to meet new people and try new things. Still, I understand her worries. St. P’s is a small community in a building with two hallways. You can only get so lost there, and every teacher and administrator knows who every kid is and where they belong. For all the possibilities that CHS presents, there is also the potential to be anonymous and drift if you can’t find a group to latch on to.

I have a lot of worries about what the next four years hold – driving, boys, alcohol, drugs, emotional issues, shitheads who tear other people down – but the least of them is M finding a place where she fits in at CHS.

In a couple months we’ll begin the next chapter in our educational story. We’ll all get to learn a new set of routines and expectations at CHS. We’ll all likely be a little lost for awhile. And we’re also down to our final four years at St. P’s. I wouldn’t say M’s nine years there have flown. I can barely remember her first day and we’ve certainly packed a lot into her time. I have a feeling these next four years are going to pass at a much quicker pace.