My kid graduated from middle school. This is, like, a thing. I know I know I know, it’s not high school graduation or any sort of milestone that we ever celebrated with sheet cake aplomb way back when, but Brodie has been at the same school for a decade. It was his last day there. I guess I wanted to cry, because I dug up those first day pics when he was posing with a nervous bus stop smile in his little Velcro shoes. Oof. That boy is now almost 6 feet tall. I’ve been writing about being in the sweet spot of parenting for a number of years, and somehow, it keeps getting sweeter.
You know that scene in Lost in Translation? Bill Murray’s monologue about his kids? I’ve always loved it. These small people do get more interesting with every year and inch. They become the best people you know. Brodie crossed a stage and became an official high schooler. But the night before, he fell asleep next to me on the couch after poking fun of my inability to SnapChat. (I’ll never get it.) Teddy asked me if I was one of those moms in texting threads with tons of emojis. I lied. As I find them ever more fascinating, I become infinitely more embarrassing. This is, I’m told, the natural order.
I’m practically pickled in end-of-year nostalgia. I used to think I romanticized teenagers because I didn’t have them, myself. And now that I do, I love them even more. They seem so much more exciting than my own Laura Ashley, white pump memories of being on the cusp of… something. I guess I wanted to cry (again), so I watched the Parkland kids sing “Seasons of Love” that had been shared oodles of times by moms annotating with heart eye emojis. It has been The Year of the Teenager in my own house and in the world.
I am a volunteer teacher for a rather incredible immersive Biology course taught to high schoolers at Harvard Medical School. MedScience uses an interactive mannequin to simulate ER settings to teach basic systems in a clinical setting. Last week’s topic was addiction, and I summoned my most dramatic teen persona and gave them a coked up 17 year old having a heart attack. Behind a one way mirror, I voiced the dummy and answered their questions peppered with drug-addled songs, paranoia about the whereabouts of my boyfriend, and a bunch of 80s movie references for my own amusement. They didn’t giggle when I told them my name was Julia Gulia or when I busted out my best Claire when they asked me if I was sexually active with Johnny:
“No. NO I NEVER DID IT!”
But they were super protective of me. Even after the diagnosis had been reached—that my tombstoning EKG was the result of a line-snorting afternoon– they were sure that my boyfriend was the peer-pressuring culprit. They held my hand and called my mom and told me they would take care of me. Medical schools and residency programs had just begun teaching empathy and sensitivity training when I was a fourth year. Are teenagers today tuned in a bit better? After the year they have had, perhaps.
Just as I’m feeling all mushy about teens in general, and mine in particular… they are gone. A week without children is how Bernie and I are beginning the summer, knowing Brodie is having fun with his cousins (and praying Teddy doesn’t tumble into the Grand Canyon). I’ve already purged their bedrooms of a semester of Latin tests and so many pants and shirts that didn’t keep up with their limbs. And then there it is. Brodie’s pre-K class picture. He dug it out to post on Instagram after Prize Day. Brodie never posts on Instagram. Do teenagers feel nostalgia, too? I guess so.
Seasons of Love (sniff sniff). Enjoy the milestone moments, friends.
**For those who found us through Steve Safran’s wildly shared and well-received essay about suicidal ideation and a rather wonderful message of empathy… welcome to Blooms and Bubbles.