Last First Day

I’ve probably made this observation before on my blog, but indulge me, please. As my kids reach their young adult years, I find firsts are changing to lasts. Today is our last first day of school. My 17-year-old begins his senior year today, and I do believe he’s as nervous as he was on the first day of kindergarten. Maybe more.

This is the year he not only has to think about getting through his classes, but he also has to make big life decisions. He’s been trying to research colleges on-line and ends up stressed out about narrowing possibilities and knowing what he’s supposed to do. He’s pretty sure he wants to go into computer programming, but also holds out music technology as a on the short list of majors.

There he goes, leaving for the last leg of the school journey.
There he goes, leaving for the last leg of the school journey.

As is common with kids who have sensory integration issues, his grades are not-so-great, but his test scores are stellar. I’m eating crow about having railed against standardized tests in the past, because now I see those scores as his key. I hope they open doors the grades have closed. He’s never had a problem with learning the material in any of his classes, but depending on the teacher, has experienced varying degrees of difficulty with understanding assignments and keeping track of due dates.

He’s come a long way in learning to cope and navigate the world, though. I remember taking him to kindergarten round-up, the spring before he started school. Kindergarteners-to-be were invited to visit their future classroom for part of the day to get a feel for it so it wouldn’t be so intimidating when they started in the fall as students. I think it may have been for the parents’ benefit, as well. I clearly recall standing outside the building with him as he screamed “You’re not getting me through those doors!”

He was overwhelmed with the numbers of big kids and adults milling around. So we explored the outside of the school for a while until he was able to go in. He was fascinated by the classroom fish tank and promptly got into an argument with a girl about fish facts. It ended with her saying, “These are our fish, buster. I think I know about them.” So that was our beginning with his school career.

Though I’m concerned about the big picture things, as my son is, this is the least stressful beginning of the year for me. And the difference is him as a 17-year-old vs. him at any previous age. He’s so darned prepared. He remembered to do all of his laundry yesterday. He sat down last night with a map of the school and marked where all of his classrooms are. He made sure he had school supplies. And he’s planning a homework schedule with talk of bringing up his grades. Wow. I’ve had so many worries about him over the years, but they’re dissipating as I see the wonderful, capable person he’s becoming. I do believe he will make his way in the world.

The Day the Music Changed

I’m in a period of transition. There seem to be a lot of endings in my life right now, including an emotional one today. When you have a baby, you have years full of firsts – first tooth, first step, first day of school. Then, after a while, you start to realize there are lasts coming along.

This afternoon saw my 14-year-old son’s last piano lesson with the teacher who has guided him through half a lifetime of musical growth. The phrase “piano lessons” doesn’t convey what a gift our household has received from his weekly sessions with a wonderful mentor. I remember his very first time at the piano, with his little legs swinging from the bench, feet far from reaching the floor, as he learned to pick out a short tune on a few of the black keys only. Week by week, his knowledge and love of music grew, until he was composing his own pieces.

A few months ago, my son told me he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do in life, but he knew it had to involve music. I know little about music, but he’s getting deep into music theory and explaining things to me that have been over my head. He saved his money and bought software that will allow him to work with composing and mixing on the computer. Last summer, when he was out of school, it wasn’t unusual for him to spend four or five hours in a day on his music.

Today, he told me that music has filled a gap in his life. He said he knows he’s never been good at carrying on conversations (he has auditory processing difficulties, so conversation is often difficult for him), but he can use music as a second language to express himself. I know it’s helped him through some rough patches and helped his confidence.

But with this growth has come an interest in expanding his skill set. One of his cousins gifted him a used guitar a while back, and he wants to learn to play that now. Neither time nor money will permit two sets of concurrent music lessons. So he’s switching to guitar for now. He promises me he’ll still play piano at home.

I sat in on his last lesson. He’s progressed from a small, round-faced child plunking out the 15-second song a key at a time to a deep-voiced young man with a newly noticeable shadow on his upper lip, who towers over both his teacher and me. He agreed to play Metamorphosis II by Philip Glass one last time for his teacher before he left. It was beautiful.