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It sounds trite to say it, but I am not sure how we got here.  

It seems so short and yet so long ago that you started kindergarten, that first step into the outside world. I remember what a huge milestone it seemed at the time and how I obsessed over every detail, from your first backpack to your school shoes. You loved everything about school, and so I loved it too. Those first couple of school years were so sweet and simple, and their passing didn’t bother me.

The middle years3rd, 4th, and 5th gradeswere so fun.  We were a school family now, embracing our new identity and schedule. Your siblings had joined you at school, and we had our carpool routine down.  Those years were full of birthday parties and class projects, friends and trends, and fun outings.

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When you started middle school, I was almost shocked to think of you as a “big kid.” It seemed like a whole new world.  There were exciting new experiences and responsibilitiesschool dances, safety patrol, and solos in choir. There were tears too, dealing with cliques and hurt feelings.

But you handled it with such grace, navigating difficult social waters and excelling in academics.  

Your school career came screeching to a halt at the end of 8th grade when the pandemic changed all of our lives. Helping you manage your grief at losing the rituals of graduation and the end of an era was difficult and heartbreaking. Your school still tried to celebrate the 8th graders remotely, but nothing could replace what was lost.

High school started nonetheless . . . or did it? It was hard to tell, since you were all alone at home, sitting at your grandmother’s desk by the window. It was as if you became a college student early, attending virtual school in your pajamas, emailing teachers if you needed help, and occasionally sleeping through a class. In the end, you learned extra independence and responsibility, and your academics were in a great place by the time you entered the school building at the end of the year.

When your sophomore year finally started in person, it was like two years rolled into one. You thoroughly embraced it, throwing yourself into school, clubs, activities, and friends. You experienced and accomplished so much in one year that it felt long even as it sped by. You started running cross country, got a job, and earned your driver’s permit.

Now you are a junior. 

You are an upperclassman, a leader. When the first day of this school year has ended, you will have more of high school behind you than ahead. While you are focused on your classes, friends, and leadership roles at school, we both feel the pressure of college preparation. Everything is becoming more and more future-focusedeach choice is weighed by how it will affect your life after high school.

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It is less than two years until your graduation, and no matter what you do afterward, everything will change. I know how quickly these last two years will go by, and it is hard not to focus on everything ending.  

Instead, I am trying to live in the moment, embracing everything that will make the memories of the future. The drives to early morning practices, late night talks, watching TV together after you get off from workthey become sweeter because I know they will not last.

So we will face AP classes and college applications together, which I am sure will make us cry and laugh together. You will get your driver’s license and go to prom.  You will get into college and prepare for graduation. And I will take each day as it comes, grateful for this time in your life and that I am there to witness it.

Elizabeth Ascik

Elizabeth Ascik is a single mom of 4 living in Northern Virginia. When she gets time between kids and work, she loves to spend time with friends, plan parties, and read and discuss books. She has always wanted to be a writer.

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