Parents (USA)

Farewell School, Hello Sunshine

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EVERY YEAR, when I walk outside on the first warm day of spring, I have a five-senses memory of my own last weeks of school. For an instant, I can swear it’s time to lug my history books out to the backyard and cram for a final (note to future teens: outdoor studying does not work) or file into a sweltering gym for a goodbye assembly.

In elementary school, my principal, Mr. Buckley, ended each year with a heart-tugging photomonta­ge honoring the graduating fifth-graders. The images changed from year to year, of course, but the music was always “The Wind Beneath My Wings” followed by “You’ve Got a Friend” and Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” (“And the seasons, they go round and round ...”). Parents sniffled quietly in the back as their kids’ faces flashed across the screen. Mr. Buckley stood at the podium and spoke for what felt like hours, opining on growing up and what the fifth-graders had accomplish­ed.

Or at least, that’s what I imagine he discussed. The folding chairs groaned and creaked as we kids swung our sticky legs and daydreamed to quiet the butterflie­s in our stomachs. When I felt sure I could not sit still for one more minute, Mr. Buckley would inevitably pause and look at his watch. “Well, what do you know?” he would boom into the microphone. “It’s 2:03. You’ve already been on summer vacation for three whole minutes. School is dismissed!”

It didn’t matter that we’d heard this line the year before and the year before that. The kids would all go wild—shouting and clapping, hugging and laughing. We’d flood through the gym doors and leap onto school buses or into our parents’ cars. The long slog of the school year was over. We had taken everything from it that we could. This year is different. It’s not just that my kid won’t get to sit in a crowded gym—or that I wasn’t able to step foot inside his class or say a big “thank you” to his teacher face-to-face. I’m grappling with the fact that I simply want more school.

Town to town and state to state, school experience­s have varied dramatical­ly this year. Maybe your kids have been going in person since September, or maybe their classes have been remote. Or perhaps like mine, after months of a stop-and-start hybrid setup, your kids only recently went back to full-time in-person learning.

My 6-year-old, Joey, who was new at school this year, just began showing signs of settling down in April. He seemed to finally know the names of all the kids in his first-grade class and to be navigating recess with joy. How can it be time to stop when he’s just begun?

When these thoughts swirl and I’m faced with the emotions transition brings, I note one thing I’ve learned over the years at Parents: Just because I’m torn up about something doesn’t mean my kid is.

And so I’m reminding myself that June, especially this one, is a time for families to celebrate. When the final school bell chimes, Joey and I will make a new five-senses spring memory. I’m tempted to start with the many great ideas in this issue, from the Insta-ready ice pops on page 11 to the epic beach planner on page 71 and the deliberate­ly messy shaving-cream project on page 22.

There may be a lump in my throat, but there will also be pride and relief—in all that our kids have accomplish­ed in this roller-coaster school year, and in a world that’s showing signs, once again, of looking brighter.


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