Confessions of a Jewish Mother–My daughter starts high school

My oldest child starts high school tomorrow. I keep thinking, “This is it.” We have arrived. The next four years are going to go by really fast.

As my husband describes it, “She is in the chute.”

I imagine her standing at the top of a ride at the water park, grabbing  the bar and swinging gleefully down the wet slide, emerging with a joyous splash in the pool below.

While I know that this is her journey, her rite of passage, I am finding that it’s a pretty big transition for me too. She is enrolled in a  new school and I’m starting to feel like the new kid on the block myself.

I imagine myself in line behind her for that same ride, thunking and bumping my way down, not so gracefully,  water shooting up my nose as I try to keep up with her, hoping for a smooth landing.

We are both navigating new hallways.

She attended the same small school for grades two through eight. She was in the same class with her friends for seven years.

Not only have they been in the same class, they have celebrated at birthday parties together, gone on trips together and played on teams together.

I know their families. We have watched our children  blossom and learn. We have volunteered together, driven carpools together and raised our kids side by side.

Together, together, together.

That’s all about to change. She is officially a member of the freshman Class of 2015 at Kamehameha High School’s Kapalama Campus. A wonderful and unique opportunity and a huge change.

There were a total of 60 kids in her eighth grade. This year she will be among 450 freshmen attending classes, most of whom have been at the school since kindergarten, fourth or seventh grades.

We are “New Invitees.” We both have to make new friends.

On the first day of school she will face that lunchroom, look into the sea of students at the tables and wonder where to sit. For many, alliances have already been formed. She already knows a few kids, but she enters without her usual safety net.

I remind her that she will find friends in her classes and clubs and sports. They will form bonds. It will just take a bit of time.

I can totally relate. Until now I knew exactly what to do. At her old school  I knew all of the staff and the teachers and the parents. I knew the Head Master by name and he knew us. It was a very intimate environment.

I will also have to make new friends. At parent orientation I faced that same lunch room and had an inkling of how she feels.

Luckily, I am not shy and quickly found a seat  and began to get to know my fellow parents.

I admit that I feel a bit out-of-place. While my daughter is part Hawaiian, I am not.  After 18 years teaching at Wai’anae High School which has one of the highest student populations of native Hawaiians in the state, I am used to being a minority. I have often been the only white person in the room. This time I feel a bit more conspicuous.

I am also used to being one of the few Jews around.  There were only a handful at her former school and not very many of us live or work on the west side of Oahu.

Kamehameha is no different. We know one other Jewish family who has kids in the elementary school. Adding that they  go to chapel during the week, I am not sure that I will be visiting her classes at Chanukkah and teaching the kids how to play dreidle. I am wondering if her absence will be excused for Rosh HaShanah.

And talk about new hallways. Island Pacific Academy’s Middle School takes up one entire hallway and shares a few classrooms with the high school upstairs.

According to the Kamehameha website, the campus is 600 acres, has more than 70 buildings, an Olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts and an athletic complex with a football/soccer field, track and seating for 3,000. It is home to 3,196 students in grades K-12.

On our first few visits I got lost and worried that we wouldn’t find our way around. It took a while, but I have finally figured out where to park.

Ninth grade classes are concentrated in two main buildings. But she will have to walk up and down the hill to the dining hall and the performing arts center. “Think of it as exercise,” I told her.

Entering high school is a big transition, period. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new school or not. The beginning of ninth grade can be daunting for both students and parents. Classmates have changed over the summer. New kids arrive from other schools. Teachers and procedures are unfamiliar. And it all counts like it has never counted before: academics and athletics, extracurricular activities and social opportunities.

It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. She is in the chute.

She has a great opportunity ahead and we will both do just fine. In no time she will have lunch mates and new Facebook friends. She will join clubs and go to football games.

I will attend meetings and school events and volunteer. I will check the website for homework and announcements. I will meet the parents of her friends. I will find ways to connect.

By the time she graduates in her white Kamehameha muu muu a the Neal Blaisdell Center, singing her school song, it will be in her heart and a part of our family.

We will survive high school.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Candy Suiso
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 08:01:41

    and we will follow along every step of the way! Imua Malina…

    Reply

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