Pardon my sentimentality today, but it’s a really good day for me! I reached a huge milestone in my Motherhood Career. This morning at 8am, I dropped off my seventh child-- my youngest off at the curb of her high school, culminating 31 years of getting children to school since September 1988, when I dropped my oldest son, (who’ll be 36 years old this summer) off to kindergarten at Shaw Butte Elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona.
Seven children over three decades—no matter what else was going on in my life, or in the world-- I was in charge of getting them to school for 9 months (and some summer school sessions too—the guilty parties know who they are!) to gain an education.
My children went to several different schools, in a few different places: Phoenix, Arizona; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Glendale, Arizona; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Fort Collins, Colorado; Meridian, Idaho; and lastly Eugene, Oregon. Seven children have had more teachers, more assignments, more lunches, more field trips, more sneakers, backpacks, notebooks, pens and pencils, crayons, markers, posters, Science projects and Book Reports than I can even begin to remember!
When I began this long season in my life, George Bush was President. There have been 4 other US Presidents in the same span as my decades of Motherhood. Three Republicans and two Democrats. And believe me, it used to be more civil. Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa; AIDS was the biggest news on MTV; shoulders pads and big hair was the fashion (for men and women!), Cassette tapes hadn’t been replaced by CD’s yet. VCR’s were the new thing and they were pricey.
Technology was just on the cusp of what it is nowadays: the Hubble telescope had just launched in 1990. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon or Google were still ideas. Laptops and cell phones were a decade away. Dolly the Sheep had been the first successful cloning. The Euro was created. And Operation Desert Storm began in January 1991. It was the first war that was shared in real time on national TV and I was glued to the television. I even wrote in my journal the name of the first US military casualty, Airman Michael Scott Speicher, shot down outside of Iraq. I cried and promised to remember his name. The kids still had school.
A new gal on TV, Oprah Winfrey with huge hair and earrings you could see from two towns over, was taking over daytime TV talking to mostly everyday people about controversial realities which essentially replaced Phil Donahue—the TV host of my mother’s generation. Television was changing faster than we could keep up with new channels popping up—whereas there’d been about 5 channels for most of my life, suddenly MTV ushered in a host of others—VH1, HBO for starters—and then all the news channels too—CNN and FOX and more filled up the TV log of programming. We got the details of OJ Simpson’s wild Bronco ride on LA freeways and the trial afterwards. We also got the tragic news as it unfolded in Paris the night Princess Diana was killed. And we still had school through all of this—lunches to be made, buses to catch, homework due.
School supplies went from Trapper Keepers, pens and pencils and scratch n’ sniff stickers, to backpacks, laptop computers, n' fancy Scientific calculators. I’ve lived through several fashion trends too—Reeboks craze, Skechers, Jeansco, Skaterboy, denim skirts, Doc Martins, NIKE-everything, and now Birkenstocks.
I’ve helped make school assignments out of marshmallows, Starburst candies, pixie stix, Legos, and Dixie cups and plates, like alot of other parents. I can write reports on Madagascar and komodo dragons, Florence Nightingale, Harriet Tubman, Women’s Rights, Abraham Lincoln and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men—and so much more, at a moment’s notice.
Having so many children gifted me the opportunity to learn alongside them more subjects than I would’ve ever learned just on my own. I've done each grade eight times, people! First grade through twelth grade--eight times! Their school careers enlarged my world seven times over. I learned more than school topics—I learned about being an Advocate for my child and myself. I learned from writers of books like Wilson Rawls “Where the Red Fern Grows”—a book that I caught my then-8-yo-son reading, one night, as I walked past his bedroom long after bedtime and heard a soft whimper that came from under a blanket where a small flashlight shone. Lifting the covers, his little tear-filled eyes looked up, “Old Dan died.” I’d never heard of the book before that moment. What a sweet memory though. I love that book. Reading has become a passion for most of my children, as it has been mine.
Staying up late creating posters for “tomorrow’s deadline” has stretched my patience as well as my creativity! We can do alot in a crunch these days! From printing off pictures to creating Power Point presentations, the technology available in our home has made our educational experience so much easier and fuller. I can say that with a great appreciation and perspective of not having grown up with it. Definitely a game changer.
Thirty-one years. That’s a Career. I don’t know anyone who’s done the same thing-- consistently for 31 years. I mean, I am certain that those people exist; I just don’t know them. I didn’t even think about it through all of this time either. Reminds me of that old Dunkin Donuts commercial, “Time to make the donuts”. It hasn’t mattered what else was going on in my life, my family’s life—School was Number One. Go to school, get an education. It’s the only thing that can never be taken from you.
Yesterday I was talking to one of my daughter’s about my sudden 31-year-realization and she said something that is still resonating in me today, “We always knew that education was important. Going to college was an expectation.” And just last night, another conversation on the edge of my youngest’s bed, she spoke about registering for College classes today for a Fall semester. Although she is nervous about going to college and the unknowns that are out there yet to be discovered, she said, “I have to go to college so I can have a good Life and not be a dumb-flip.” Yes, you do, Sis. Of the seven children, only one will not attend college in his life—Dean, because he has a handicap that will prevent it. But so far, we are on the right track: all of the gang has gone to college or has plans to attend. Can I just say, without sounding arrogant or hoity-toity, that I am so grateful for this family tradition of ours?
I was raised by a mother who only finished 10th grade and a father who could barely read though he graduated high school. They never spoke of college to me or my brothers. It was not a family tradition where they came from, so it was an Unknown to them too. Different times, for sure. But I wanted more for myself and my children and education is the way for us.
This morning, at that school curb, as my youngest popped open the car door and said, “I’ll see you in a bit.”—I just had this lump in my throat. Solid emotion. This is my last day of school.