It’s the time of year when we look back at all those first day of school photos from previous years. We watch as our children turn from chubby cheeked, soft fingered new kindergarteners, to leaner big kids. Every year I posed my boys in the same spot on the front porch. It was stilted and staged, but I could see their height increase against the doorpost. My favorite fist day picture of all, though, is the one that happened by accident as my camera and I followed the boys down the driveway toward the bus stop. They stopped to play in a tree and in that one picture their little characters came through.
Fast forward. More years than seem possible. But really only four.
The boys’ schedules are so full that it seems lately I only get snapshots of them during the week, sans camera. Cheeks flushed red at the end of a cross country race. Hair damp and smell ripe after hockey practice. A helpful, “Sure,” when asked to help clean the kitchen at night. A grateful, “Thanks, Mom,” when delivering urgently needed band music. Carefully coiffed hair after the evening shower “so it will look like hair and not gel tomorrow.” A huge mountain of a backpack disappearing through the door in the still dark of morning.
Sometimes the snapshots I collect aren’t even from my boys themselves, but secondhand. At hockey, since the boys are with the team practicing, warming up, or actually playing, most of my time is with other parents instead of my children. And most of that time isn’t even while they’re playing but in the transitions before and after their games. (Hockey is often a nearly four hour commitment surrounding each one hour game–an hour to drive each way, an hour for pre-game warm up, and however long the kids take in the locker room afterwards.) There’s time to chat with other parents.
It’s still early in the season. My older son hasn’t even had his first game yet, so I haven’t seen him skate with this new team. After a recent practice I was standing outside the rink waiting to pick him up. I greeted other parents and one of the dads said, “Daniel is really looking like a captain in there. The team was having trouble with its passing and he was getting them back on track.” *Heartbeeps* He’s a second year bantam, so most of his teammates are younger and less experienced. Daniel had shared that his team seemed unsure of where and how to move the puck in certain situations. As a defenseman who can see the whole action spread out in front of him, he’s always called out suggestions to his teammates. We’d always thought of it as something defensemen do. Apparently, it’s something captains do. There have never been official captains on his teams. But this snapshot showed me a suddenly older and more responsible player.
Much to my son’s chagrin I’ve downloaded the app from school that lets me check his grades from anywhere. Last year was a rough transition to high school–in a new, more demanding district. Last year I felt like I was doing high school again. I had my own schoolwork, plus closely supervising whatever he had. This year, I’ve been feeling lighter. Quick check ins have been sufficient. When I get home, homework is mostly done. (The app agrees.) And when he’s out shooting hockey pucks in the driveway when I get home, he explains what he’s already done and his plan for later. (Who is this?!) Sunday night I thought we’d slipped back to our old ways. He was supposed to read two essays from the Federalist Papers and when I asked him about them what I got was, “Umm, checks and balances.?” with a half question in his voice. So we had an earnest conversation about how to read something as dense and jam packed as these essays. I read one and left mentor notes on post its. Fast forward to yesterday. When I walked inside, after our driveway chat about his very reasonable plan, there on the table next to the second Federalist essay was his notebook, page full of…notes.
Last year he would have argued. He would (probably) have avoided. But here’s a snapshot of my son as a suddenly more responsible (and responsive) student.
It catches me off guard sometimes how much they’ve grown and changed. Sometimes it takes an old photo…or a new snapshot…to see just how much.