The morning starts with dread. My daughter is performing with her chamber choir in an assembly at school. She desperately wants me to come and watch. So I send the younger kids off to school and then, with the 20 minutes left before I need to leave, hastily dress myself and my two preschoolers. Taking granola bars to eat for breakfast on the way, I grab my video camera and arrive just as the middle schoolers begin to filter into the cafetorium.
I sit in the parental seats hastily thrown up along the back wall and watch in fascination as the students saunter into the room. They are just becoming aware of their individuality and it shows in their extreme fashions and overly thought out attitudes. If I look close enough I can almost see them sprouting wings. I have an unobstructed view of my daughter as she sits on the back row with her choir. As hard as I try, I can not quite tell where she fits into this complex social structure. Is she a leader, a follower, a do her own thing anomaly? An 8th grader in the choir walks along the back row, high 5-ing his friends along the way. As he passes my daughter, her hand goes up and gets the slap. This leaves me strangely disconcerted.
The choir director has asked the choir to stay after school for an unknown reason. I assume it is a celebratory party, so I’m surprised to see my daughter’s tear streaked face when I pick her up. The choir director, her favorite teacher, is leaving. Today was his last day. Apparently he was here only for a year while the normal teacher was on maternity leave and, being offered a permanent spot elsewhere, has decided to leave. The school refused to let him tell his choir until his last day; they will return from winter break with a new teacher. The news, broken at lunch, has left my daughter devastated. The supposed celebration was actually a final goodbye. As we drive home, she tells me she was teased for her tears the rest of the afternoon, but it didn’t matter, because she was sad and it is their problem if they couldn’t understand. I find this revelation strangely comforting.
And as I hold my baby and let her sob, I am glad she is still only a 6th grader. And I am very grateful I dragged my preschoolers out so early today. It was her chamber choir’s only performance of the song they practiced so diligently, and, more importantly, she knows I was there. She still wants me to watch her perform. She still wants me to comfort her aches. Today, she has shown the strength to be herself. She may be growing wings, but she’s not ready to fly away just yet. I hope I can help her wings grow strong and sure.