The time for cheers, tears, and celebration arrived with mixed emotions. The last of our offspring closing the final chapter of her fifteen years in the education system. Two years of pre-school then thirteen from kindergarten to twelfth grade. As parents, we hovered when we needed and backed away when each of our children showed the signs they acquired the skillset for spreading their wings alone.
Mr. and I watched Eldest move through first, and we learned along with him with each step. He graduated with honors and laid down a foundation of excellence which his siblings watched and followed. Middle pulled the line next and provided us the affirmation our process and playbook rang true. Both boys went through high school with the typical schedule for type A kids: AP/IB rigorous courses, played a sport at the top of their game and both were team captains, participated and involved themselves in Model United Nations—not just as delegates but as part of the elected governing body—they earned accolades and respect from the teachers and administration which made Little a legacy in the eyes of the school.
She followed this legacy all through elementary and middle school. She internalized her emotions for a long time about the difficulties of following flawless brothers, in her eyes. By the end of eighth grade, she turned to wearing mostly black and didn’t smile as much as in previous times in her life. She turned salty and bitter with less and less communication passing between her and us. We watched her grades and kept our finger on her pulse as we encouraged her to try out for volleyball, a sport she loved and played despite her autoimmune issues which take a toll on her knee, and kept playing the same playbook we did with the boys.
She entered high school excited but scared. This legacy crushed her internally, but she kept steady and solid as she played volleyball and stuck her nose in the books. We watched her like a hawk and allowed her enough space to grow but not enough to fall by the wayside. There were arguments as the pressure inside her grew, yet she held it at bay not knowing how we would react if she unloaded these pressures on us. In her mind, she was following two successful acts, and she was the downfall.
She loved volleyball, but the program did not fit her. Her volleyball coach was also the girls’ basketball coach and encouraged her to try out. She made the team not knowing a thing about basketball, but her coach believed in her, and it helped bring her back into the light. We watched her smile and grow as he continued pushing her limits and teaching her the game. We cannot thank him enough for finding the key which turned her self-esteem around. There are people who come into your life that make all the difference in the world. He rates at the top for our Little.
Freshman year she began Model United Nations. She loved it in middle school and wanted to continue on in high school. Another thing she was legacy in as her brothers also went through the program. Unfortunately, in her freshman year the teacher ended up on administrative leave and they found a less than solid person to fill those shoes. It was a constant rotation of substitutes, and the inconsistency singed the program a bit.
Then the tragedy of all tragedies occurred. Winter break hit and we received a call that her best friend also sat in the darkness but didn’t find her way to the light. The small glimmers of light in Little’s world shattered with that phone call. She fell a few rungs and the next eighteen months loomed in the outside facade of high school happiness, but her inner self warred with the “why does this happen.” Again. Mr. and I did our best to keep within her inside the circle but allowed her to grieve and work through the catastrophic impact at her own rate.
Freshman year she met Tex in her English class after break. A new boy in town with a gloomy past. We told her no dating until she reached her junior year. She didn’t listen. Deep down, Little is a fixer. She only wants to bring happiness to others. She wanted to fix all those insecurities Tex held inside and make him shine. He wanted a girlfriend to hang on his arm and absorb all the wrongs in his life. It was a terrible combo, and Mr. and I knew it. Again, we watched and parented to the best of our ability. Not leaving to chance, if we closed the door with an absolute no to seeing Tex, that in typical teen style, it would resort to sneaking around behind our backs to see him. This road was tough, but fortunately, her coach, a few teachers she adored, and the few close girlfriends she had all helped her find her own road away from Tex, and it ended in junior year.
She thought junior year would be much the same as sophomore but with more academic rigor. She warred with staying with basketball and dropped drama, except for the Cappies review team she loved. The drama program played favorites, and she was not one of them. The decision to drop those courses was tough, but she found Spanish really suited her. Spanish four was something she looked forward too.
Unfortunately, basketball changed its face on her. Her beloved coach was hired somewhere else, and a new coach stepped in. She had stuck with the team despite unbearable pain in her knee because she respected her coach and his belief in her. She arrived for the first summer practice and came home to tell us she quit. When we asked why she let us know he was a total creep and something about him was off. In our minds, she loved her first coach and thought this fell in line with other things she mourned like her friend, the end of playing volleyball, the freshman year MUN debacle, and other things she lamented over in the past. We were proven wrong when, by senior year spring, it came out he was asked to leave and arrested on a suspicion of inappropriate acts with minors. Little’s internal compass was spot on!
Spring of junior year Little hit her stride. The light flickered and began its slow rise to brightness. The IB (International Bachelorette) program requires a CAS project. She decided to write, direct, and produce her own play. Through the help of her middle school drama teacher, she wrote a play dealing with the strains social media adds to teenagers lives. She directed it toward middle school students as she believes social media, in part, was a catalyst to her friend’s suicide. She spent from April until August writing a play. The dialogue, stage directions, music, and stage sets all poured into a manuscript that she copyrighted. When school started, she worked with her middle school drama teacher and held auditions of his drama students, picked a cast, rehearsed with them and built the sets she researched and designed. It was an innovative set as she designed a six-foot mock cell phone with a backlit projector and mock social media and text exchange slides to occur during the interactions of her actors. The play was well received when show night hit in November. It was a tremendous undertaking and we believe it was the pinnacle moment when her self confidence unfolded its wings, and she began to live for herself again.
The next big boost was her participation as the elected Director General of OPI (Office of Public Information) in the MUN secretariat. Every year the program raises money for a non-profit organization that makes an impact on a world issue. She presented the idea of representing Live Literately When the founder of Live Literately, author David Michael, asked what drove her to suggest Live Literately to the MUN board for approval. She told him, “I want to represent Live Literately as they not only want to address the issue of literacy, which is a world issue, they are accepting of LGBTQ+ issues. It’s time that MUN programs reach out and represent all issues across the globe.” The program accepted her proposal and raised $500 with the donations given by participating delegates of MUN programs.
Little continued writing drama reviews for Cappies and served as a co-lead critic for the program. Her love of theatre is strong, and I don’t see her giving it up completely when she arrives at college.
By graduation day she filled her requirements and earned membership into the National Honors Society, California Scholarship Federation, MUN four year member, International World Languages Medallion, IB diploma, and graduated with honors, in the top 7% of her class of 557.
We left her last night for graduation night. They were going to an undisclosed location, and we were to pick her up at six am the next morning. By ten-thirty we had a text from her that the private bus company never showed. Grad night was canceled at eleven-thirty, and we picked her up from school with a frown and not the smile we left her with as she left the graduation ceremony. In the end, this actually was the perfect culmination of her high school experience. Each step of the way she learned something new, despite it coming on the heels of an unfortunate experience.
Little is a beautiful soul with so much to give the world. I know deep in my heart that she will spread her wings in the fall at college and look back on the past four years with a bit of salt but in the end it will taste way sweeter when she realizes she wouldn’t be the young woman she is today without each of those experiences in her tool kit. This new road shimmers with excitement, and her self-esteem is intact and solid which warms my heart as we prepare for her to fly.