For those of you dealing with a high school senior right now; a few words of encouragement.
It’s almost over.
And I am right there with you.
Senior Year brings with it untold adventures, seemingly endless projects, plenty of paperwork to sign, FAFSA applications, more money to spend (pictures, cap and gown, senior trip, announcements, yearbook … the list just keeps on going) and the transition from having a teenage high school kid to a teenage wanna-be adult.
It has been a delicate balance at times this year with my daughter Ally and I, as she tests the limits and bends the rules and looks to see what is going to happen when she pushes too far. We are working on figuring it out as we go; it’s the age old struggle of her wanting freedom and me wanting to give her some, but neither one of us quite knowing how to let go altogether.
One of the projects recently completed was her ‘Me Book’ – a project that Oakdale High School requires in English IV. By the end of it, I felt the project should have been called (more accurately) the ‘We Book’ because there were many contributors. The best way to describe this project is that it’s an overview of the senior student’s life so far, combined with a little looking into the future. Relatives were contacted for information on the family tree, my mom was the subject of a brief interview for a short essay required on one of your family members; there were photos to be printed out, newspapers and magazines to be pored over for appropriate pictures, words, phrases and headlines. My daughter had to do some creative writing and produce pages of entries including an Auto-Bio Poem and her Essence of Character. It gives an overall look at the person primarily responsible for putting the book together and, if you were to read it knowing nothing about that person ahead of time, you come away with a real sense of who they are and what is important to them. Ultimately, I guess that is the goal, as the book is designed to be a true representation of who you are, here and now. So in that regard it is a ‘Me Book’ but in the process of putting it together, it becomes the ‘We’ project.
‘We’ spent hours going through photo albums to find pictures of childhood friends and family events, reliving memories along the way. It’s amazing how many photos you forget you have and how they can take you back to a specific place and time. Photos of Ally just before her first birthday, as she was dealing with a horrible case of measles; photos with her two older half-brothers smiling as they dug out the insides of pumpkins in a jack-o-lantern-making-operation on the kitchen table; photos with my mom and dad when they came here to visit shortly after her birth; photos during a trip back to upstate New York when all three kids were baptized at my childhood church; photos with her dad that she added to her ‘Greatest Sadness’ page as she had to write about losing him when she was just 16-years-old…
I know everyone takes pictures on their cell phones now and shares them on Twitter and Instagram and posts them on Facebook, but there is still something to be said for holding a little 4-by-6 piece of photo paper that brings memories to life that you just can’t get anywhere else.
I spent weeks commiserating with a co-worker whose daughter is also a senior and we updated each other frequently on the progress (or lack thereof) of the Me Book effort.
Ally did most of her writing first; ‘we’ figured putting the pages together would be the easier part. Well, turns out ‘we’ were wrong – it was slow, painstaking work to get the pages in order and the kitchen table and counters spent the final few days before the project was due covered in decorative paper, pictures, stickers, type-written assignments and more. It all came together and I felt she arranged the book well, putting pieces into place to give a cohesive picture. As much as she was getting alternately tired of it and irritated by it at the end, now she can’t wait to get her book back and see what grade it received. Plus, that Me Book will be a great treasure for her to share with her own children someday – and something she can enjoy looking at later in life, to see who she was at 18.
Senior Year is almost over; we are both surviving and still love each other, some days more than others.
So with things starting to wind down, all that’s left is … finals, Disneyland, graduation practice, graduation day, Sober Grad … and then on to the rest of her life, college, career and beyond. Take a deep breath and hang on.
It’s not almost over, it’s just getting started.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.