When I dropped my daughter off at cross-country practice, I paused to watch the high school marching band rehearse. As I watched the kids play their instruments and the color guard practice their routines, I was instantly transported to a time when I, too, twirled a flag in front of a frenzied Friday night crowd.
If I looked hard enough, I could see the way the lights danced on our sequined costumes and I could practically smell the autumn air on the nights when we’d compete against other high school bands. And, when the marching band sounded off their cadence, drums in unison, it was all I could do not to start marching my feet in time with the beat.
As I turned to walk back to my car, I sighed.
Neither of my kids has shown any inclination towards playing a musical instrument or learning complicated flag routines. In fact, showing them videos of our high school competitions only results in their incredulous faces asking, “Mom, why did they make you wear that awful costume?” In their defense, I do have to agree: white spandex and orange sequins really aren’t flattering for any body type.
But, I’ve begged them to look past the hideous costumes. I’ve tried to convey what those years on the gridiron meant to me: friendships that have lasted a lifetime, an appreciation for how hard kids in the marching band work to master routines and an inability to hear music from West Side Story without smiling to myself.
I want my kids to have those memories, too.
I want my kids to look back on the clubs and activities they participated in with the same longing I feel every time I pull out my high school yearbook
And it’s hard not to try to push them to do the things I loved dearly in high school. I mean, come on: twirling a flag was the height of cool, right? Don’t answer that.
I’m trying to let my kids experience high school in their own way, on their own terms, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to influence their choices a little bit based on my own cherished memories.
I want my kids to know what it feels like to sit on an aluminum grandstand during a championship game and suffer the agony of defeat with their peers.
I want my kids to feel the hot lights of the stage during a musical production, while their friends off stage try to make them break character with funny faces.
I want my kids to walk into a high school gym, wearing clothes that make them feel adult and fancy, and feel like a prince and princess during the Homecoming Dance.
The smell of the high school cafeteria on pizza day.
The sight of your friends laughing and waving you over to the table in the cafeteria that you’ve commandeered for the last four years.
The feeling when you realize the cute guy you’ve been staring at in math class looks back at you and winks. And then feel of the nerves in your stomach when he awkwardly asks you out on a date.
Of course, high school isn’t all fun and Friday night games.
We all knew that popular cheerleader who made us feel inadequate as she walked down the hall with the captain of the football team.
We all have the story of that college rejection letter that showed up unexpectedly
And we all have the remnants of that first high school romance that broke our hearts into tiny pieces.
As I watch my kids navigate their own high school years, I find myself trying not to remind them to enjoy every minute. Because I, too, remember how the long days of chemistry finals and teachers with boring voices made high school days feel like drudgery. It was impossible, back then, to love every moment.
All of those small moments, both cherished and difficult, in my high school experience lead me to where I am as an adult. I want my kids to experience high school and all it has to offer them in the same way I did. But I know that, no matter how much I loved my English classes and loathed Chemistry, my kids will see high school through their own lens.
I’ll never sit in the stands, cheering for them during a band competition, because that was my path, not theirs
But I want my kids to know that the annoyances of high school, those times when rejection stung and mean girls seemed to win really do fade. The good of high school outweighs the bad and, eventually, you become that 40 something mom who is wistfully watching the marching band and wondering how time marched away so quickly.
You realize, too, that the rejection letter led to accepting an offer from a school where you met your now husband.
And as for that popular cheerleader who made you feel inadequate?
Turns out, when you reconnect with her on Facebook twenty years later, you find out she was jealous of you, too. And you become simply two moms trying to figure it all out while reminding each other that there was a time when your hips used to fit into white spandex.