What grade are you going into?
Twelve’s answer stops me in my tracks, “Seventh,” she tells one of the regulars at the yoga studio.
You can’t be, I think to myself. We just moved here and you’re two-and-a-half. But of course she’s not. Nor is her brother five-and-a-half. In fact, as a family we’re closing in on a decade of living in Des Moines and we’ve just finished elementary school. Not just for the summer, for good.
By the time I was a rising seventh grader, I had been to five schools in three countries. My schools ranged in size and mission and were a mix of public and private, including one boarding school and—as I’ve written elsewhere—it was amazing to me that in spite of the fact that the count would climb to eight by twelfth grade, I ended up graduating with many of the people I sat around a circle with in Kindergarten. That said, I hoped for a different experience for my own children, one that embraced a more cohesive curriculum and a sense of continuity.
So it was that in spite of the fact I’ve never lived anywhere else for ten years at a clip, I counted on the move to Iowa to be the one that would stick. And when Twelve’s sixth grade teacher welcomed her to classroom 6A last fall, she did so with a big hug and, “I’ve waited your whole life for this moment.” She was right, too, because Twelve had been toddling through the halls of Crestview since her brother enrolled there as a Kindergartener those ten years ago.
Fifteen and Twelve’s elementary experiences overlapped by just three years. I was, in fact, volunteering in Fifteen’s third-grade classroom when the principal came to find me with the news that Twelve had won an all-day spot in the Kindergarten lottery. I told him I couldn’t have been happier if he was bringing me an acceptance letter to Harvard. By then I knew, from my son’s experiences there, that Crestview would educate and nurture my daughter, and I was excited for her to begin.
In addition to volunteering in various classrooms and for a couple of fundraisers, over the years I’ve been in and out of Crestview’s doors often, picking up and dropping off children, participating in parent-teacher conferences, and attending musical performances of the band, orchestra and choir. I’ve watched the school shift, moving physically out of the building to a holding school for one whole year while Crestview was renovated, adding layers of security at the front door, changing in more subtle ways under the leadership of three different principals, and ebbing and flowing with the adoption of new curricula. Through it all, my children—both extra-strong readers and bright students—have enjoyed opportunities to learn and grow; their teachers have been nurturing and thoughtful. When nonacademic issues arose for my son (teasing) and my daughter (a misstep by her fourth grade teacher), the school was quick to address the situations appropriately. My peeps have learned that some subjects and teachers will challenge and interest them and some won’t. “Crestview,” Fifteen says when asked, “Wouldn’t be much without the people—the people that go there and the people that teach there.”
“Crestview’s always changing, but it still feels the same.” Twelve’s turn. “It has its own community.”
They are thoughtful and wise, these children, and of the many lessons they have learned, being a part of something and sticking with it despite ups and downs feels to me among the most valuable.
And me? I’m learning to hold still. My children have taught me to watch, to witness, and to let go sometimes. I’m learning that they’re going to do things, learn things, and want things differently than I do. I’m finding I can be excited for those experiences for them, even as my own interests take me in directions they may or may not follow. And I’m ever grateful that when we’re apart, as we are during the school day where they spend more of their waking hours than with me, we live this life together, a shared tapestry of experiences.
Crestview became a part of our world ten years ago and graduating from its embrace was surprisingly sad. Thank you to all of the teachers and students and families and administrators and maintenance workers and security people and bus drivers who made elementary school a center of gravity for our family. And thank you dear reader, for reading and for not noticing that the new moon was nearly a week ago, xoR