The transition to middle school has proven to be easy so far for Aaron. My self-directing, shy, quiet son is jumping head-first into the experience, fearlessly facing the challenges of Sixth Grade. Dom and I are amazed and proud.
Victoria is not handling it quite so well. You see, she is “left behind” at the elementary school, facing her first school year without her older brother on campus.
I didn’t realize how much comfort his presence brought to her. Nor how much pain his absence would render.
For three days Victoria convinced us that she was worried about new teachers, fellow students, math, and recess. (Who worries about recess?!!???? I know, right?!!) I chalked it all up to new school year jitters and did my best to reassure her that everything was going to go swimmingly this year. “It’s all up to you, Baby Girl! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!”
When yesterday passed without a phone call, Dom and I both breathed a sigh of relief that yes, she was indeed having a good time with her classmates and had forgotten all about her nervousness. Last night held few surprises, save that she was still nervous about potential seating charts in two other classes. Today would confirm the seating arrangements, and she wasn’t looking forward to it at all. No biggie. For over an hour last night we talked, we snuggled, she felt safe and loved. She told me over and over again that I am “a good mama.” I responded each time by telling her that she is a wonderful daughter.
This morning the drive to school was a bit melancholy. Dom and I switched up in order to share the experiences of each carpool line, so he drove Aaron today and I drove Victoria. (I took Aaron yesterday to his first day of middle school…see here for the tear-stained details.) I watched Vic in the backseat as I drove, her sad little face looking like she’d just lost her best friend. She complained a few times that her tummy hurt, and she felt nauseous. I told her it was just nerves and that once she got immersed in her school day, all that ickiness would go away. As we pulled onto the school’s street, she told me she doesn’t want to be dropped off at the front any more (where she and Aaron used to leave the car together to walk up a long sidewalk to the front door). I replied that I would be happy to pull through the side carpool line for her from now on. She still looked ultra-pathetic. Before exiting the car, she asked if she could call me if she started feeling worse. Confident that things would start looking up in a matter of mere minutes for her, I said, “Oh, but of course you can!”
At 9:08 this morning, the school’s main number flashed across my ringing cell phone. I had three people in my office at the time, and I think my exact words were, “Oh, s**t.” I noticed my office cleared out rather quickly. It was Vic on the other end of the line, saying she still felt sick, and would I please come get her. Twenty seconds later, I was walking out the door.
I could tell by looking at her she wasn’t sick. She was sad and pitiful, but seriously working all her angles to leave school. I talked with her teacher, who was in full agreement with me that we had a simple case of nervous drama going on. I took Vic to the car to chat with her in private, and after five minutes of sweet talking her and reassuring her, I nearly lost it. “I have to go back to work, sweetie. You are not sick enough to stay checked out of school. Come clean with the story, or I’m shipping you back in there to cry into your teacher’s Kleenexes!!”
She threw her head back and sobbed, “All right!!! I’ll tell you the truth!! I’m not worried about teachers or classmates. I don’t care who I sit by. My whole problem is I miss Aaron!! I’ve never been at school without him, and now he’s gone to another school and I’m left here all alone, AND I MISS HIM SO-HO-HO MUH-HUH-HUHCCCHHH!!!!”
For a brief instant, she reminded me of Ed in Raising Arizona when she holds Nathan Jr. for the first time. I tried really hard to focus on the present.
For the next hour, Vic explained how awful this was that Aaron wasn’t with her anymore, and how much she missed him and relied on him and now he was gone…(I had to remind her that he JUST went to middle school, not the Great Classroom in the Sky.)
“I don’t know how to be at school without him!!!! He left me and I can’t do this alone.”
Long story short (too late!) I did my best to reassure her with little success. So I took her back to school, crumpled Kleenexes and all, and the principal and I talked with her for just a few more minutes before they walked me to the door and walked each other on to Vic’s next class.
She will get through this adjustment in a week or so and be just fine, I’m sure. (I hope…) As an only child myself, I have no frame of reference for this phenomenon. But then again, maybe this is just another way for Vic to fulfill her purpose in my life…by giving me a different perspective.
At one point in our conversation she said, “I know everyone thinks I’m so strong, but I’m NOT!” But I know differently. She may feel weak right now, but she is incredibly strong. I can still see her standing on that playground between Aaron and two strange boys who seemed to be picking on him. She had her curly hair in a messy ponytail and her little three-year-old fists perched on her hips. “LEAVE MY BROTHER ALONE!!!” was all she had to say. Those 6-year-olds knew she meant business. They may have thought they could intimidate Aaron, but they knew differently about her. And so they left. Maybe that’s the difference – they were supposed to leave at her command. Aaron was supposed to stay?
And so I’m left wondering how in the world I’m going to deal with her emotions on top of my own when Aaron goes to high school, drives off on his first date, goes to college, leaves home… Dom should start to brace himself now. She and I will be absolute train wrecks.
Is this the down-side to having my children so close in age? People often mistake them for twins. At 19-months apart, they are mirror images and polar opposites. They are best friends and prickliest thorns to each other. They are night and day, but one seems to be made more complete by the other. For years Victoria has light-sabered, legoed, and nerf-darted her way into Aaron’s play-time routines just for the sake of his company. Maybe she figures her reward should be his undying promise to never be more than two rooms away.