Last week, Shelby started the fourth grade. This is the second school year that she has begun without Megan doting over every paper she brought home, every picture day, PTA meeting, or fundraiser flyer th
at seems to be more frequent than homework. Her peanut butter sandwiches (which she eats every day for lunch, no matter how much we suggest otherwise) were “crafted”, not “made. Dropping her off at school, Megan would walk her to the door, hand-in-hand.
Retrieving her at the end of the school day, there was always a milk shake, followed by a snack, and then Shelby completing her homework while Megan browsed every paper contained in the backpack.
It set a standard that I, in no way, believed I could ever achieve. It was one of my largest fears when Megan died; that I would somehow set Shelby up for failure because I couldn’t keep up with the pace Megan did when it came to school.
I am never going to join the PTA. I feel Shelby is old enough now to walk to the door of the school from the car, and if we lived closer to the building, she would walk from home, like I did by second grade. I sometimes forget to fill out a picture day form or a field trip permission slip, losing it in the shuffle of paperwork. Her lunch is the last thing we make before departing for the day, and Shelby puts most of it together, including those peanut butter sandwiches, which we’re having her make for herself now.
For all intents and purposes, it appears as if exactly what I feared is occurring...Shelby is on her own.
As I think critically about it though, the end result is not unfortunate. Watching from the outside over the years, the PTA doesn’t do much except put on a few dances, conduct fundraisers, and bicker over things. Shelby would be embarrassed if I walked her to the doors of the school like she was a second grader. They always conduct a second picture day, and historically, Shelby always takes a better picture on the second go-around. She dresses herself, quite well, with no intervention of suggestion. Her peanut butter sandwiches are made exactly how she likes them, rather than too much peanut butter, too little, or god-forbid, jelly.
If Megan was still alive, I’m not sure if any of our routine would be different from two years ago. I don’t know if Shelby would still be our baby, little girl, or young woman. What I can say for sure though, is that the total change in routines has not affected her for the worse. She is still bringing home straight A’s. She's growing like a weed (so the peanut butter must be doing something), and she is excited to go to school, just as she is excited to come home at the end of the day. She’s proud of herself for bringing home good grades, and she could care less about fundraising.
She’s not being neglected, which was my biggest concern. She’s becoming independent in little ways, and forming her own healthy routines. That may have been hard for Megan, who lived for our daughter more than anything, to let go of. It will not be long until the only time she really needs our help is a ride to school, and as I realized last week, she’ll be able to get a driver’s license in 5 years.
I have come to the conclusion that Megan did every thing that Shelby needed, just when she needed it, to set her up for becoming independent. Similarly, when she died, it set me up to give Shelby enough care and support at the right time, while pulling back on some of the over-protectiveness and doting that she had for the first few years of school. I am not physically capable of doing everything that Megan did, and as long as I am working, I never will be. That was not, and will never be my role, however. With Sarah now in our lives, Shelby has the mother figure and role-model she needs as a woman and confidant, rather than an “over-seer” or “manager” (or sandwich crafter).
As odd as it may seem, Megan’s mothering of Shelby, and subsequent death has made Shelby even more successful. It did not weaken her, rather, it made her stronger. It made her more independent, and it showed her things she needed to do on her own to make her proud of her own self. She has all the support she needs between Sarah and I as she goes into fourth grade. With Sarah, she has a strong woman, and shoulder to cry on that lost her own mother at the same age. She has got a father that will make sure she has what she needs, nothing that she doesn’t, and only pushes her to learn things for herself. She had Megan, who stared death in the face every day, and still gave everything she could for her, and showed her what she needed to do.
Shelby has been surrounded by the right people, at the right times, and in the right situations. She’s had to go through something that no child should EVER have to go through, and she is dealing with it in such a way that only her mother could. I am proud of her. Sarah is proud of her, and I’m sure, above all, that Megan is ridiculously proud of her.
This is one of those times that I wish nothing else than for us to have five f’n minutes with Megan.. Not to pick her brain about what we should be doing, mind you, but just to TALK to her. Just to be able to have her hug Shelby and say “I am so proud of you”. It brings me to tears that she is not able to do that. That Shelby can’t audibly hear those words coming from anyone other than her mother.
I also hope that Megan would suggest something other than peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.