|My Best Friend and me.|
My oldest is a high school junior. Not only do I love her because I’m her momma, but I love her for the young woman she has become. My husband and I really can’t take all of the credit for the end product we’re seeing. While we know a good upbringing, in a loving and supportive home, plays a role into creating a thoughtful, kind human being, so much also happens in the outside world to shape them as well. Situations they are placed in during the school day can have a large influence on who they will become. Let’s face it, as parents, we can’t be with our children to coach them on their decisions all the time. We need to have faith in their ability to choose right from wrong. Trust that the values and lessons we’ve instilled them with are used in the process.
I worked outside of the home when Syd was little. We were fortunate to have a wonderful private babysitter whose family loved her like she was one of their own. On my days off, I maximized every moment spent with her. She was this amazing sponge. I found that even while I worked on household chores, she was content being set up nearby with her toys or craft items and interacting with me. The sponge part comes into play because I could say almost anything to her and she’d retain it. By two years old, she could count to twenty in English, Spanish, and German. Learned her colors in English and Spanish. We sang together all the time. Itsy Bitsy Spider was her favorite. Syd spent most of her time around adults. Even when the opportunity to play with kids her own age came about, she usually abandoned them to hang out with the adults—although she was terribly shy. It took her forever to warm up to others. Instead of interacting with new acquaintances, she preferred observation. Her vocabulary was incredible and, at times, colorful.
The first day of kindergarten was hard on both of us. I had to take her to Mr. Gorman’s classroom with her wrapped around my leg, limping along, while she screamed her head off, “No! No, Mommy! Don’t leave meeeeee!!” Gut-wrenching. I was crying as badly as she was. Thankfully, Mr. Gorman, a fresh-eyed new teacher, was kind, patient, and creative in getting her to come out of her shell. As she matriculated, my husband and I loved watching the evolution of our daughter The Student. Many say it takes a village to raise a child. I will go so far as saying it takes a school to raise a child. Syd has had many wonderful teachers. With some, it goes beyond the standard classroom lessons and special shout outs should go to Mrs. Sherwood, Mrs. Heffron, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Learn, Mrs. Stern, Mr. Hafer, Mrs. Stropko, Mrs. Silverstrim, and Mrs. Bustin. *I needed to add Ms. Duncan, Ms. Acla, Mrs. Hill, and Mr. Wakely--4/8/14* These select educators are the ones responsible for molding the young adult her father and I see today. Education is about more than jamming specific facts down a student’s throat for standardized testing regurgitation at a later date. It’s about amazing teachers selflessly giving 110% of their time to their students. Going that extra mile. Daily lessons can be fun, interesting, and inspiring. A teacher’s passion (or lack thereof) for their subject is infectious. They challenge, encourage participation and even want a good debate when appropriate. They know that valuable skills like organizing, prioritizing, self-motivating, and giving and receiving respect are just as crucial as reading, writing, and arithmetic. A student’s success is their success and brings on a tremendous amount of pride. Syd keeps in touch with some of her past teachers since true friendships have developed.
|L to R: Mrs. Stropko, Lesley (her BFF since Kindergarten,) and Syd dressed as famous women in history (Syd was Margaret Thatcher.) Seeing The Iron Lady. Being inducted into National Social Studies Honor Society.|
Syd has other amazing people in her “village” who have helped shape her. Obviously, there would be too many to go into detail, but I would be remiss to leave out a few from this blog post. Her godmother, Andrea, was present for her birth. As a labor and delivery nurse by profession, she served as more than just friend/godmother/coach. She assisted with bringing her into the world and her nurturing hand has been a constant in Syd’s life ever since. Syd’s honorary grandmother, Andrea’s mom, Inge, has been another dynamic force in her life. My friends, Michelle, Vivian, and Jennifer, fill in as aunts by association. They bring rich conversation, comic relief, and emotional refuge. I can’t leave out the best teacher/home tutor ever, Miriam. She came by every Tuesday evening to work extra with Syd, from 5th through 8th grade, to give her an academic boost. Perhaps her greatest support person has been her riding instructor, Pat. Pat came into all of our lives when we were hurting as a family; still reeling from a truly horrific experience—an experience affecting Syd the most. When your child is hurting, you, as a parent, are hurting, too. A wolf in sheep’s clothing entered into our lives and threatened to virtually destroy everything that was our beloved daughter. An adult we trusted with our child’s physical and mental wellbeing was not who we thought. After the experience, we learned just how strong Syd really was. The largest part of her healing came about due to a 5’4” horsewoman with fifty years’ experience in the Morgan Horse world under her petite belt. Pat’s soft-spoken style and empathy reversed 99% of the damage done. We will be forever grateful to Pat for her friendship. Unfortunately, the 1% that lingers on, will most likely follow Syd for the rest of her life. If anything, that 1% has taught her not to be too trusting or naïve like her father and I were.
|L to R: Her winnings from nine horse show series Summer of 2008. Working beside her riding instructor, Pat.|
We’re in college mode now at the Stringham house. PSAT’s, SAT’s, and college visits consume our free time conversations. Last night, Syd and I poured over the college brochures she’s received in the mail. We had three piles going: Out-of-the-Question, Worth-Looking-Into, and Strong-Possibilities. Numerous considerations went into the selection process such as: distance (because she wants to be able to come home frequently,) total enrollment (she feels she’ll be able to thrive more at a smaller institution,) cost (because college is freaking expensive,) sports programs (she’d like a chance to compete on an equestrian team,) and, of course, undergraduate programs offered. She wants to be a high school teacher. I know. Not a wonderful job market out there for teaching with budget cuts, but she’s passionate about teaching. Has been that way since second grade and knew since 9th grade she wanted to teach high school students. She’s gone back and forth between history and English. Currently, history seems to be winning out since it fits in with her interests and hobbies more.
While Syd is transitioning into this next phase of her life like any typical high school junior, with excitement and a touch of fear for the unknown, I am not handling it at all well. First and foremost, my seventeen-year-old is my best friend. Sure we have our mother/daughter moments of raised voices and clashing personalities, but those moments usually end with us laughing at each other and hugging. My husband likes to say she and I love each other one minute and hate each other the next—only to be cuddling with each other afterwards. I don’t know what to attribute our closeness to other than to say it’s just the way we are. When I travel, she rides shotgun. I don’t know how many miles the two of us have traveled together: out of town horse show series where she competed and I played horse groom, cultural trips to cities so she could experience life outside of Bradford County, concerts, musicals, and even PTA meetings and school events. If the wheels were rolling, she was in the passenger seat. We’ve consumed numerous bags of Twizzler’s, cans of Pringles, and M&M’s, as well as sipped gallons of Dunkin’ Dount’s coffee while on the road. At any rate, I’m prematurely suffering from separation anxiety. I’m Lorelai Gilmore losing her Rory. Edina Monsoon losing her Saffron. Joan Crawford losing her Christina. You get the idea. I don’t want to let her go. But I have to because she’s growing up. It doesn’t mean I’m going to grow up though.
|L to R: Syd, with her girls, She Knows Shesa Star (Maui,) CocoMaya, and Foxwin Gemini (Gem.) Showing Maui in 2009.|
Are there any words of wisdom about sending your first child off to college from our blog readers? Please comment below! I’d love to hear from you.