We are now one week into summer vacation for my kids. Which means we are now one week into being solidly past our elementary school years – a fact I am just beginning to fully acknowledge.
It’s not that I am sappy, mushy, and in denial about my kids growing up. Frankly, I enjoy them more as they get older and wouldn’t want to rewind or stop time. What’s difficult for me as we close the elementary school years is my sense that we are leaving behind a space that has been safe, and grace giving, and nurturing for our entire family during some incredibly challenging years. On some level, I almost feel as if we’re giving up our collective family security blanket.
The teachers and staff at our little elementary school supported us during the years where we began to lose our son to severe anxiety and depression. They went out of their way to make sure he was supported in every possible way during the school day. And I don’t just mean his actual classroom teachers – I’m genuinely talking about the entire school staff. There were caring eyes, helpful hands, and safe people in every corner of that school. When the school district did not want to give us some of the accommodations we knew would make the transition from elementary school to middle school easier, the teachers, counselor and principal at the elementary school fought for us and pushed all of the accommodations through. In doing so, they made sure that the safety my son experienced in the cocoon of elementary school would extend in a smaller way to the larger middle school.
Just caring so deeply for my son would be enough to earn my unwavering gratitude. But the school also cared for my daughter during these difficult years. Time and again, teachers and staff went out of their way to make sure my daughter was being seen and heard as her own person while also allowing the space for tenderness when the realities of a sibling battling mental illness began to wear her down. They made sure she did not get lost during a time when it would have been so easy for her to feel overlooked – somehow finding the sweet spot between protecting her and empowering her. They are sending her into the larger world of middle school prepared to advocate for herself, for her brother and for anybody who needs a champion.
That little elementary school was the backdrop for what will turn out to be defining years for my son, my daughter, myself, and for our family as a whole. That little school was the warm hug we all needed over and over again. It was just like a security blanket – warm, well known and loved, and always there. The unending compassion, genuine care, heartfelt prayer, and helping hands of the school community sustained us all through some incredibly dark and difficult days. If I could, I would take them all with us into the middle school years – and I mean physically take them with us! – but clearly that’s not possible.
While I know those people will always care for my family, it is time for all of us to make a leap, see who and what the next chapter holds, and figure out how to thrive without the comfort of our security blanket. It’s time. And I think we’re ready. But it’s bittersweet.