Last night we attended a bridging ceremony for our son. He is ten and is just about to finish fifth grade. Next year is sixth which is now considered middle school. Back in my day, elementary went up to sixth and then seventh through ninth grades were junior high and then on to high school. I am certain that there is a load of research saying that this is the age of transition, this fifth to sixth age group. The age when kids need to start taking more responsibility for themselves and their school work. The end of handholding and coddling. So last night we celebrated this end. This new beginning.
There were games for the kids. They played the one where you submit a baby photo and everyone tries to guess which kid is which baby. Some of them were truly difficult where others you could totally see that kid even in the baby face. Sometimes it was just the eyes. Or the shape of the head. Mine was easy to tell. He is a very white kid.
Then there was food. There was a lot of passing out of lei. I failed miserably at this. Even after all the time that I have lived in Hawaii there are still a couple of things that I can’t seem to get right. Like bringing lei. And making appropriate potluck food. That still confounds and stresses me.
Next awards were handed out and all the kids received a certification of completion of fifth grade. Their teacher reminding them that there was still nine days of school left. As if he might revoke a certificate or two in that remaining time. The next awards were described as being decided on by the teachers and ranged in recognition for best overall student, noisiest and quietest. My son was awarded the title Mr. Entertainment. He even received a sash, which may have been the highlight of his evening. The quote on his certificate was from a Marshall McLuhan and said, “anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.”
The evening ended with a bit of dancing. The kids had been asked to submit their song choices and one of the parents assembled a playlist for them (who needs a DJ anymore). Once the program was completed, the music came blaring through the speakers. The kids, who had been like rowdy, excitable animals all evening jumped onto the stage. Parents perched around the edges, phones at the ready. It was then that I saw my son. Really saw my son.
You could tell by watching him dance that he seemed to have a dance for each song. No two were alike. He was frequently at the front middle of the stage with at least two or three of the other boys following his lead. Almost like a mini-choreographer. But it wasn’t even just that, it was that his moves, were so good. They were so dedicated and so determined. I can hardly describe it. I was awed. I was hoping that the other parents wouldn’t think bad thoughts of me as he went into full Harlem Shake pelvic thrusting movements (again, not solo, but clearly the leader). He danced with confidence. And he danced like no one was watching. And everyone was. More than one parent commented on his dancing and not as I had feared they might. They seemed to be truly impressed with his ability.
And this weird moment. This dancing revelation moment has made me alternately proud and incredibly sad. And feeling like I should be a better parent. Watching him last night. Seeing him performing all of these dance moves. I realized that even though he is ten he has got things that I don’t know. He has this separate outside life that he has begun to form that I will circle around the edges of for the rest of my life. Peering in to see and to know. But as a parent, I know that no matter how close we are, I will never know it all. Not like when he was just here. Just with me all the time. And that is a sad realization. Of course entwined with happiness because this is what is to be expected.
And the part that makes me feel like a bad parent is the part of me that has not yet forced him to take drama or to take a dance lesson. Seeing him last night, I know that he has got at least some talent. And if not talent, a love for it. And that’s a really good place to start. Dance lessons have been pushed to the top of the to-do list after the summer (we are too travelly to make any kind of commitments). But I really need him to try and know. Or try and fail. Or try and not love it. But not trying is clearly not an option.