The Modern Momma: The End of Elementary School Was More Emotional Than Expected

Thinking about fifth-grade graduation caused a flood of tears and self-doubt. Then my son set me straight, as only a kid can.

Kristy Eckert
Kristy Eckert

It didn’t occur to me that my kid graduating from elementary school would be emotional.

So, a couple of months before it happened, while sitting at my desk between work meetings, I very casually clicked into the “welcome to middle school” video the district emailed. Three seconds in, my eyes welled with tears.

I shocked even myself. He’s not leaving for college, for goodness’ sake. He’s not even headed to high school.

Yet still.

I can picture the first time Cooper made me unexpectedly cry. He was in my belly, and my husband and I were touring the hospital maternity ward. To that point in my adult life, I had cried maybe three times. No lie. Couldn’t even conjure a tear during my wedding vows. Yet as we stood beside that hospital nursery, when a baby began to wail and neither of the nurses budged from their obviously hilarious conversation to comfort him, I started to sob the kind of tears that only a very hormonal woman carrying another human can fully understand. My husband’s jaw is still on that linoleum floor.

“Nobody will take this child out of my sight,” I told him, walking ahead while rubbing my belly and silently promising Coop he would never feel so abandoned as that sweet wailing babe.

For the record, I realize that was an extreme overreaction, nurses are goddesses and sometimes, ignoring a wailing child is precisely what the situation calls for. I’m just making the point that pregnancy opened a fierce well of emotions I didn’t know were possible, and I’ve been riding that wave since.

That said, my job is to build Coop’s wings. So I sometimes wonder if the same all-encompassing love that prompts those tears is somehow holding Coop back. Am I too easy on him when he skips making his bed? Should I force him to read more? Is it absurd that I still double-knot the laces on his baseball cleats myself because if I don’t, there is a 100 percent chance the game will be stopped when they come untied? Will he even survive a day of middle school? OH MY GOSH—IN THE 11 YEARS SINCE THIS CHILD EMERGED FROM MY BELLY, HAVE I FAILED HIM COMPLETELY?

These were the thoughts running through my mind, of course, when the video ended.

I was basically having a full-on anxiety attack by the time Coop walked in from school.

“We watched a video about middle school,” he said, oblivious to the fact that parents had simultaneously received the same information. “I took some notes for you.”

He opened his backpack and handed me a crisp paper complete with hand-colored bullet points.

  • Email Mr. Durell if you have questions
  • Orientation 8-11-21
  • School starts at 8:05

I exhaled, and then I smiled. Nailed it, I thought. Hallelujah.

I mean, I’m positive I’ve failed him in a million different ways. (And yes, I should make him tie his cleats himself. Just ask my husband, who might be off the grid upon discovering I shared this publicly.)

But the boy is going to be fine.

I will, too. Just pass the tissues.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.

This story is from the Summer 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.