Somehow, this past week was already the last week of school for Amelia and Henry. I know what the calendar says, and while I may not be as plugged into current events as much as I once was, I do still note the passage of days, weeks and months and was on some level aware that it was late May. All that said, it honestly feels like the kids JUST started fourth and first grades like a few days ago. I feel like I just put the little chalkboard we use for first day of school pictures back in the basement the other day, but it turns out “the other day” was about 8 months ago.

Time really just whips on by and it seems to be going faster the older I get. Of course, for the kids who have been counting down to their last days of school, this could never come fast enough. No matter the perspective, the calendar is an unrelenting force and Monday was the beginning of the end of this school year.

Every year when this happens, I am taken back to my younger days and how it felt being so close to wrapping up another year and embarking on summer break. Kids start eyeing the exits and losing focus, and frankly I’m pretty sure parents and teachers are pretty ready for all to wrap up too. But for all the anticipation of summer and moving on, there are absoultely bittersweet elements to it.

We certainly saw it in our kids this week. They were both super excited for the last day, but there is also an underlying sadness for the fact that they are saying goodbye to friends and teachers. At times during the week, Amelia would have random emotional swings and as we talked to her we found out that indeed, underneath the happy, bubbly surface of excitement, she was sad about ending her time with a teacher she loved, and also melancholy about saying so long to friends. Most will be back next year, but some are moving away and a new year also means new classmates, new teacher, and all new dynamics.

As parents, we need to help guide our kids through the often contradictory emotions that come with endings and closing chapters. It is possible to be excited, happy, sad and scared all at the same time. It’s our job to help foster the bright feelings while showing them that it’s OK to feel other things around them, too.

For Amelia, it was a week of fun activities and field day! She was thrilled to take part in all the fun outdoor activities and to have a day where she didn’t have to wear a uniform. (Her school requires them through fifth grade.) There were parties and awards and also hauling home lots of cool projects they worked on throughout the year. My personal favorite was a game Amelia and her friend made called “Apples to Uno,” which is a mashup of Apples to Apples and Uno.

Henry had a fun-filled last week, as well. He finished a day later than Amelia…they both had half days on Thursday and Henry also had a half day on Friday…and there were plenty of parties and activities for him, too. The school hosted a continuation ceremony where they honored all the kids moving on from first grade. Erin and I got to go and see our guy SO proud to get his certificate and hug his teacher. I am not taking an ounce away from how proud Henry must have felt, but I can tell you his parents were at least as proud.

And on his second to last day, Henry’s school hosted a carnival with lots of bounce houses, visits to the school’s farm animals and other fun activities. Our kids both had lots of fun there.

Both kids worked so hard and did so well this year, and this being the first year in a new school for Henry, we didn’t know what to expect at the beginning. But his teacher was nothing short of amazing and the support staff fulfilling his IEP (individualized education program) were phenomenal. He has made unbelieveable progress. He’s formed incredible friendships and relationships with friends, classmates and teachers, and made real strides in his academic foundations.

I’m sure most parents out there can name several teachers who have made significant impacts in their children’s lives. We are lucky to be able to name several for both of our kids. This year we are particularly thankful that Henry had a teacher truly sees who he is. In spite of some of the blocks he has academically, she tells us all the time how smart he is and she worked tirelessly to both support and challenge him.

I’ll write more about this in another post, but we recently did some additional assessments for Henry and found that in addition to being autistic, he also has dyslexia and ADHD. It’s good that we got the assessment early, and we are getting him tutoring help this summer. But on his last day first grade, Henry had a suprise for us. That morning I came into the kitchen to find him READING ALOUD.

The day before, Henry’s teacher had given us some little reading practice books and here was Henry, sounding out words and completeting full sentences, something we had not seen him do before. I was overwhelmed with emotion, almost to the point of tears. Not only was he showing us a major foundational skill, he was happy and proud doing it. Part of our concern about his frustration with reading was that he was developing an aversion to even trying, and this showed us that his love of reading had not been extinguished.

We sent him to his last day, both parents on cloud nine, and then got ready to head up to the mountains for a well-deserved weekend getaway for the whole family. It has been fabulous so far.

People often ask what the kids are up to this summer, and I’m happy to say, “honestly, not much.” Some kids love camps and things, and we’ve done that with our kids, but in general they like to just take things a little slower and enjoy the time off, and we’re happy to let them do that. Henry has his dyslexia tutor a couple times a week, along with a few therapists, and Amelia has piano and soccer, and that’ probably enough. I think we’re all looking forward to taking things at a slower pace for a little while.

As Ferris Buehler says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around sometimes, you could miss it.” As we’re enjoying our time in the mountains, I had to take a moment and reflect back on the week that was, because it was pretty special. I know for us parents and kids, the end of school is something that happens every year, but I’ve come to recognize that it is an important marker and one that bears recognizing. Finales are always packed with emotions, lessons and perspective. Here’s to all of us on the closing of this chapter, and the beginning of a brand new one.