The One Without a Clever Title

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

This was supposed to be a graduation shout-out at the end of May. But last Thursday, life as we knew it came to an abrupt standstill, and now it’s a mid-March, rainy Tuesday tribute to my youngest instead.

I’ve never met a kid who loved his high school more than my son. From the pro/con list he made the first time he set foot on campus (13-year-old boy pros: beautiful campus, good donuts, unlimited milk) to the day we moved him into his dorm, GS was where he belonged. He wasn’t even a little nervous, although he did express concern at the fact he would be attending a Quaker school and the only thing he knew about Quakers was that they wore funny hats and were pictured on oatmeal boxes.

I had to attend every single soccer game freshman year to see him. He had such FOMO that I couldn’t even bribe him with dinner to leave campus, although sometimes he’d counter my offer with an invitation to join him in the dining hall. He threw himself into every activity he could—tour guide, live music weekend, dorm treasurer, hottest freshman boy (the latter came from another parent, not him). When he finally did come home on fall break, he sweet-talked me into doing his mountains of laundry with a huge hug and the World’s Best Laundry Folder crown, and I was more than happy to do what I needed to keep my title.

The summer after his freshman year, we told our kids we were divorcing, and the look on his face nearly killed me. The next morning, he said that it was a good thing he’d gone through peer counseling training because now he knew how to deal with his family being in shambles.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. 

His academic grades weren’t always what I (or he) would have liked, but he excelled in his art and woodworking classes. Yet without fail, every trimester his report card had multiple nominations to the Head of School list. Knowing his teachers, dorm parents, and coaches recognized his kindness, leadership, and love for his school helped overcome any GPA misgivings. 

When he was 16, he was stranded alone overnight in the Denver airport. He called me the next morning to tell me that he’d found Chick-fil-A and a charging station, that he’d gotten to travel to a new state, and that he’d ridden the escalators the wrong way because there was no one to yell at him. I learned a lot about perspective that day.

He was chosen to be a prefect his senior year, and spent hours planning his room and the bonus room where his prefectees would gather. He ordered an entire wall of photos and couldn’t wait to show me which ones he’d chosen. He loved going to Costco to pick out the best snacks for the kids who would come to play video games and hang out after study hall and on weekends.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. 

Last Thanksgiving, I woke up to a lengthy text about what a great mom I am, and how much he appreciated me. I cried in the bathroom that morning, and then cried again when he told me he’d sent similar texts to 22 other beloved friends, family members, and adults in his life. 

When my grandmother passed away last December, he had to miss the final few days of school before Christmas break. He asked if I could give him an extra day to say goodbye to his friends, knowing he wouldn’t see them again until after the holidays. He spent a long time in the dean’s office that day, discussing life and death and family and other things he wasn’t ready to share with me.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

In February, we went to rent a tux for the upcoming prom. He somehow convinced me that buying a custom tux and suit would be a good long-term investment because he had finished growing. A very patient salesman spent more than two hours with us as my son painstakingly chose the style, fabrics, and taglines on the inner jacket labels. He was so happy to finally own pants that fit his 6’2”, 160 pound frame perfectly.

He swung between JV and Varsity lacrosse his freshman year. It was the first time in 10 years of playing sports there were conflicts with his graduating sister’s game schedule, but he reassured me it was okay to go to her games because he still had three seasons left. He filled out the team captain application as a junior and while he was sad not to be chosen, he knew he still had one more year. I couldn’t have been prouder when I saw Captain next to his name on the roster last week.

When he learned his spring break service trip to South Africa was canceled two days before he was supposed to leave, he declared that although he was really disappointed, now he had time to catch up on sleep and work on a new Instagram account for his art.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Last Thursday evening, he came downstairs to let me read an email from the Headmaster that the rest of the 2019-20 academic year would be held online. Senior portraits, lacrosse season, and college sweatshirt day all vanished in less time than it took to say Coronavirus. Prom and graduation are TBD, but even if they do happen, with students all over the US and abroad, it is unlikely he will get to say goodbye to many of his friends before they head off to college this fall. As the person who has protected him more fiercely than anyone over the last 18+ years, my heart broke for all the long-awaited milestones that he’d miss out on.

Sixteen hours after the school email came, he walked into the kitchen and announced that his worst fear—homeschooling—had finally come true the last three months of his senior year. And in the midst of all the uncertainty, heartbreak, and tears, I laughed–hard–and knew he’d be okay.

Published by Jen Oneglia

Jen is a single WAHM of two students who no longer live at home. Her passions include cycling, Thin Mints, Snapchat filters, and inappropriate humor. She enjoys overusing snark and hashtags to compensate for the fact that she doesn't drink wine or coffee.

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