Spend any time in your social media feeds like Facebook and Instagram, these days, and you’re bound to start spotting multiple “first day of school” images. Summer’s over, and a new school year is shortly underway.
The routine, by and large, is nothing new for our family, but this year marks a crucial difference. Charlotte, my eldest –- who was only a year old when I started this blog -- is starting high school next week. On paper, it’s been a long time coming. Tests were taken, applications were submitted, letters were thoughtfully composed, scholarships were dangled, choices were made, checks were written, uniforms were purchased and schedules were drawn up. But, suddenly, here we are. Next week, my daughter starts attending a school way up on the Upper East Side. Buckle up, buttercups, because this is happening.
Obviously, it’s a great thing. She’s worked very hard and we are exceptionally proud of her. Her efforts and dedication have earned her a place at a great institution and it’s the perfect environment for her to thrive in. I have all faith that she’s going to make the most of the opportunity. It will have its challenges, certainly, but I believe she is fully up to the task.
On a more personal level, however, I’m in a daze. Time has slipped by so quickly, and this little girl I used to be able to carry around with one arm is suddenly this willowy young woman. Technically, she earned the title a little while back, but this summer, it really felt that she became a proper teenager. Sure, there’s been a pronounced uptick in eye-rolling and unsolicited smarm, but nothing unexpected. She’s still thoughtful, compassionate and sweet, for the most part. That may change, but I’m hoping not.
On a logistical level, that commute brings its challenges, as well. It’s a straight shot on the 6 train from our neighborhood to the Upper East Side, but it’s a greater distance she’ll be traveling solo, on a daily basis. It’ll also mean getting up earlier and out the door on time, two things that some members of the family are more comfortable with than others.
As documented here throughout the years, I’ve trooped my kids all over the city. It was usually done for fun, but I also wanted to familiarize them with the topography and instill within them an innate understanding of where things are around town and how to get to and away from them. I wanted them to get to know their east, west, north and south without having to even look at a street sign. I wanted them to know the distinctions between neighborhoods and multiple routes for getting from here to there. I want to believe I’ve been successful, but regardless, for Charlotte, she’s about to be put to the test.
Now, when I was Charlotte’s age, I was already blithely running all over the city, and back then, it was an ostensibly much more dangerous place than it is today. In those days, I had no smartphone for my mother to call or track in case I didn’t come home on time or went missing. She just showed me the ropes at an early age, let me go and hoped I’d make it back alright. I usually did. Usually.
But now that it’s my daughter, I still can’t help feeling trepidatious about this new rite of passage. I’m sure this’ll prompt lots of “man up, you snowflake” responses, but hey …. she’s my kid, and I’m her father. It’s my job to be concerned. And, obviously, I’m also overwhelmed by the bittersweetness of it all. I’m immensely proud of her, but I cannot fully reconcile that she’s not that tiny little girl anymore.