I've just returned home from dropping my youngest daughter, Betsy, and husband off at school. I only went so that I could borrow the car; it was nothing to do with it being Betsy's last official day in Year 13. I definitely didn't take them because I wanted to see her heading off down the school corridor one last time as an official school student - that would be silly.
Betsy clearly read too much into my lingering hug and last school photo shoot moments with her 'Oh mum, I didn't expect you to be this nostalgic' comment. Waving her off didn't at all remind me of her first day in Nursery, where I would stand round the corner peeping to make sure that she was ok and was getting her fair share of play on the playground tricycles.
There have been loads of 'it's the last time you'll do this at school' moments lately. One was just yesterday when we watched Betsy sing a duet and take part in her last school choir performance. She was MC so it was also Betsy's last time speaking in front of students, teachers and parents. My only involvement was to watch, take too much video footage on my phone and irritate her by giving her the over-the-years-oft-repeated public speaking advice. I'm sure you'll appreciate I wasn't at all nervous for her! I'd no need to be, she was great.
Our school has a tradition that the students' pre-leaving celebrations includes dress-up-days. This is both a first and last moment for Betsy. We've had lots of dress-ups, but never on the last day of school. This year's themes are 'childhood aspirations' and 'fictional characters'. Betsy's childhood aspiration was to be an air stewardess, so yesterday she donned the full Thai Airways air hostess costume, and today for fictional characters she has chosen to be young Donna from Mamma Mia 2. As I watched Betsy unravel her hair plaits she'd slept in, to emulate Donna's style, fasten on her hippy earrings and clip on her 'tool belt' to her dungarees I reflected that 'helping' her get ready for a dress up day was another 'last time' moment. Actually all I had to do was fork out for a pair of dungarees, but you get the idea..
All these 'last time' moments really are significant. Old person comment alert - it's not like in my day when one day you went to school and then the next day you didn't. This is a good thing as I think proper closure is important for everyone.
For me it's impossible to not feel at least a bit emotional as I watch Betsy, in effect, say goodbye to childhood. (Gosh, that sounded dramatic!) As a mum it's like finishing one very long shift of the most important job you're ever likely to have, knowing that whilst you're not being fired, you won't be called in for as much overtime in the future. Or, it's like running the first leg of a relay knowing that your main role for remainder of the race is going to include more cheering and less full on running. (I think!)
Watching Bets as MC took me back to her first ever speaking part, when she took on the important role of 'Narrator' in the Year 2 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory production. She was both shy and confident, as she timidly described how 'no one ever came in and no one ever went out' of Mr Wonka's factory (why do I still know that part word-perfect?!) To be honest I'm nonplussed how that sweet, kind, warm-hearted half hesitant, half assured little girl has flourished and grown into the confident and assured young woman she is.
Let's not pretend though, some of these 'last moments' are not to be desired. Back to dress-ups... No more fairy tale, comic relief, what makes you happy, Egyptian, Victorian, Twin, Bug, or International Day costumes for me to worry about. Bloody brilliant! Anyway, judging by the odd glimpse of photos I've been afforded of my elder daughter's nights out at university there will be lots of other dress up opportunities in the future. The difference is that, thankfully, I won't be involved in them. No more will I have to resort to going to the tailors to buy over-priced costumes, whilst pretending they were homemade or recycled!
To coin a phrase it is 'a rites of passage' time in Betsy's life and I've no doubt that her last day will be emotional, full of laughter and likely a few tears. But hey, life is full of emotional moments. I'm not, therefore about to get carried away or too choked up. Heaven forbid I should drag out old photo albums, DVDs of school productions or start talking about 'the end of an era'. That would be ridiculous. The fact that I booked my flight back to Bangkok and have been part of many of these 'this is the last time Betsy will do ... at school' events - is purely coincidental!
Saint Mick of Thana just read this and cheekily suggested that maybe the bigger rite of passage is for me no school-age kids any more ... he gave me a knowing look, but I don't understand why.