By JENNIFER STEUER
I am usually writing about the month coming up and what we might be anticipating. For August, I often think of school supplies, figuring out those last minute appointments that need to be made and how many free or inexpensive things can we still enjoy before that alarm clock goes off on Sept. 6.
Looking forward and anticipating the future of middle school is fun and a little anxiety provoking, so this August I am looking backwards to the month of June and the graduation of the Steuer trio. Graduating is bittersweet: part of their life is done and another is ready to begin.
Yes, it is over. The idea of a 5th grade graduation means the kids are leaving the elementary building and heading off to the middle school across town. I just can’t wrap my thoughts around the fact that these three have spent seven years in their Montessori cocoon, and now it’s time to break out, becoming middle school Monarchs. My kids have been wrapped in the most amazing bubble of teachers, administrators and classmates. Seeing this end is hard because the school, the kids and I have been a team for seven years. My favorite phone calls were always from our school nurse because she would say “School nurse here. There is no emergency…” then she would continue. My anxiety would immediately drop after she said her line.
I have pictures of the first day of pre-kindergarten in 2012, and I almost don’t recognize the small kids with backpacks that look huge. The teeny tiny kids with teeny tiny voices skipped to school and didn’t glance back at Harlan or me when we delivered them to their classroom. Oh, they knew they were such big kids! I watched Olivia and Rebecca start chatting right away with the girls sitting near them. Benjamin’s eyes darted around as he looked for the boy he had befriended on the orientation night and then he smiled that big smile. Friendships solidified and school supplies unpacked – Rebecca, Olivia and Benjamin were ready to learn everything.
From those precious pinch-able cheeks in pre-K to the kids who are now getting the surly tween-ager act down perfect makes me feel like I need to slow this all down. I didn’t just have one child graduate from fifth grade, I had all my kids graduate. I have no do-over. I have no “I can do better” with the next child. Three kids each hitting milestones at the same time can be a positive: one graduation party, teaching them all to drive at once, and if we are fortunate, possibly another generation under the Steuer name.
The Montessori elementary experience gave each child a firm foundation to find traditional and alternative ways to solve problems, to have discussions that involve talking, listening/hearing and how to be better environmental stewards. Three very independent thinkers who back up their thoughts or opinions with research or an age appropriate “Just because it is!” All of this came from walking our three kids to our neighborhood Albany city school.
The ceremony was really nice and went as expected: Harlan cried, I crawled on the floor to get a good picture and our last name was spelled wrong. After seven years, (SEVEN!) Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca still had their name spelled wrong. I will hand it to their teachers: Steuer was pronounced correctly. I did notice a few things at graduation that made my chest feel very full and I did in fact cry. I studied the children as they lined up and stood in formation. Each of the beautiful young ladies and the handsome young men appeared to be lost in thought. As I watched the procession of the two fifth grade classes, quite a few of the girls were tearing up or crying already. I wondered: Did we, the adults, keep re-gifting our cynicism, sarcasm and sentimentality to our children and therefore the generations that follow?
As I watched the classes sing for the guests I noticed two things: Benjamin was actually standing on a riser and his mouth was moving. I did learn later because he just cannot lie that he was singing a different version of the song. I must celebrate the win here: Ben was singing! He was standing next to the other young man with the same name who became fast friends that warm orientation night. They aren’t so little now, but they are still friends.
Looking at the past seven years gives me a sense of comfort because I knew what to expect. This coming year makes me a little nervous: hormones, class schedules, a new school and taking a bus both ways. (Did I mention hormones?) What I am certain of is this: Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca are going to middle school with a firm education background and a respect for different ways of learning. I will hold my breath the first day until they get home and I can ask the usual, “How was your day?” When I get three grunts or an exasperated “Fine!” I will know that I can exhale.