Clues that your child is less than a year from high school:
Some weeknights, you struggle to stay awake long enough to see your child to bed.
Some weekends, you struggle to stay awake long enough to see your child come home.
You pray that years of modeled behavior, subtle hints and outright lectures have actually stuck.
You realize that everyone who warned you was right: The middle-school years fly by.
Cooper has finished two years, and soon — in what will no doubt feel like two months’ time — he’ll be headed to high school. All signs indicate that eighth grade is a transition year not just for students, but for parents, too.
He’s often awake past 10 or 11 p.m., completing homework, managing projects and studying for tests. I try mightily to stay up with him, to be available for questions, to offer moral support or to turn off his bedroom light. But there have already been a couple of evenings when he’s the last human awake in the house.
Two of his classes are heavy hitters — high school courses a year early, with grades that will kick off his official GPA. While I appreciate that students have an opportunity to get ahead and clear their high school schedules for even more complex classes, I struggle with the pressure 13-year-olds face in worrying about GPA. And I sort of dread what a full load of high school classes will look like.
With greater responsibility comes greater freedom, including later “curfew,” if you can call it that when parents are doing all the driving.
After long weeknights, I’m usually desperate for a lazy, early Friday night. The eighth-grade social scene is in full swing, though. I’m thankful for two- parent families, who almost always volunteer to take the late driving shifts for me. At least I can doze on the sofa while waiting for my teenager to come home — and little sister can keep her bedtime.
Last Friday night, as I drove Cooper to a high school football game, I felt a wave of alarm. Had I properly prepared him for whatever scenes might unfold? Would there be a fistfight under the stands? A group of ruffians smoking in the bathroom? (Was I expecting American Graffiti to break out?)
I couldn’t keep silent the building admonitions.
“Watch out for trouble. You can’t drink any alcohol or try any drugs. I mean, I know you wouldn’t and we’ve talked about all this before, but it’s my job to tell you these kinds of things all the time. Seriously. Don’t. If I text you, you have to text me back. Do you have your phone? Do you have cash? Is it safe in your wallet? You have to stay with your group the entire time. And have fun!”
Whew. Mom mode needs some fine-tuning. But the whole teenager thing happened so fast.
If you’re parent to an infant or toddler, you might start rolling your eyes now, but it’s absolutely true: Each year moves faster than the year before.
Each year is filled with more — more papers to write, more band concerts, more group projects and more word problems with increasing complexity.
And those tall people who were not long ago your preschoolers are gone more often — going in early for tutorials or sectionals, staying late for meetings or challenge matches on the tennis court.
As their lives fill with more, and you spend fewer moments together, time has the illusion of speeding up, like someone hit fast-forward on your very existence.
We’re not given the luxury of hitting stop or even pause. We’ve simply got to keep up — as long as we can stay awake — and relish the moments we can share.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.