It’s not been a typical elementary school era with my oldest. But then, you probably understand that. You’re here.
- We braved kindergarten, making friends, navigating the cafeteria, and learning to read.
- We managed her first psychiatrist appointment, diagnosis of bipolar w/ADHD on top of her RAD, and discovered this thing called an IEP meeting.
- Since second grade we’ve requested, evaluated, and haggled over accommodations for everything from tests and homework, to where she sits in the room and where she can go when she’s melting down.
Nowhere in the this process, however, did we accommodate for milestones and the needed closure they provide for our family.
I don’t know if you have 5th grade promotion where you live. But, here? Picture high school graduation, with shorter kids. They’re dressed up, there are speeches of the “Our experiences here will change our lives forever” variety. Honestly, it seemed superfluous. Partly because it is (do we really need another promotion on top of middle and high school?) Partly because my daughter’s been giving off the “promotion is sooo stupid” vibe. And, if I’m honest, partly because I didn’t think she’d be able to participate. She’s terrified of being in front of people because of her mental health and speech challenges.
Regardless of why I thought it was OK to let her skip the ceremony, I was wrong.
I knew it the moment I sat on her bed and stroked her back that last day of school, as I’d done each school morning for six years. The ambush of tears confirmed it: My little girl’s growing up, and I’d accommodated us right out of an important milestone. At least for me.
Because I need to notice milestones and have closure as her mom, too. It isn’t all about her. I needed to watch her walk that stage, celebrate how tall and beautiful she’s become and let those memories of 5-year-old her running across the blacktop flash through my mind. I needed a moment carved from end-of-the-year madness in which to let tears flow over that first time she walked home with a friend. To relive the diagnosis moment, and thank God for how far we’ve come since then. And to let my mind wander through the important work of closure.
Psychology Today defines closure as “finality; a letting go of what once was… a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new.”*
Creating closure when it’s nowhere to be found:
In the absence of being one of the “pass-the-kleenex” moms at promotion, I did the following:
- Held on to something: I took photos for me to remember this season. Photos of her class room, their class garden, her favorite teachers, and where she played on the playground. I saved them in a file together so I have a place to stroll down memory lane when I need to.
- Let go of something: As I helped her clean her closet, I noticed the bin of clothes we’d collected–favorite outfits from each year of school–and asked her if she wanted to help me make a quilt out of those outfits. We spent an afternoon going through each skirt, top, and pair of pants, sharing memories of the years she’d worn them. And then I let them go. I cut swatches from them–18 by 18 inch pieces from history–and helped my now-big-girl decide what order to arrange them for the keepsake.
That picture you see? That’s our quilt, laid out to be sown together. But more than that, it’s closure. Soft, comforting, relationship-building, mom-heart-respecting closure.
Parents, we need to give ourselves permission to recognize these kinds of milestone moments. We need to leave space in our lives to notice what’s been important FOR US, and not just for our kids. To set aside deliberate space to celebrate and do whatever we need to do to mark one season, and move toward the next.
What milestones have you missed with your child? Is there something you could do today or this week to bring closure there?
*Brenner, Abigail, MD. “Five Ways To Find Closure From the Past.” April 6, 2010. Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-flux/201104/5-ways-find-closure-the-past.