So long, eighth grade - we're moving on!

By the time you read this - or soon after - I will officially be the parent of a high school student.

I believe the technical term these days is "rising freshman," but I think that sounds weird. No matter what words you use, Ainsley's days as a middle schooler are over.

She graduates tonight with a cheering section comprised of her father and I, my birth mom, and my birth dad and his wife. On Saturday, friends, family and neighbors will join us for a bigger celebration - featuring al pastor tacos from Ainsley's favorite Mexican restaurant.

She survived middle school relatively unscathed, despite an eighth-grade year filled with an unexpectedly high number of absences and unanticipated interactions with some truly mean kids.

For her crossing the finish line I credit all the adults who supported her at school, from teachers who saw her talents and knew how to elicit them to the social workers who talked her through tough times to the front office staff, who wrote her tardy passes (and were always so kind when I was calling in yet another absence).

Being her mom through all of this has been a challenge. I remember my best friend telling me years ago that as kids get older, they don't need you as much, but when they do need you, their problems are a lot harder to solve. I believed her at the time, but now I have the experience to know she was right. I wish Ainsley - and all of us - could learn all of our lessons through joy, but sometimes we have to learn them through pain.

Middle school is a notoriously rough time, but eighth grade did have some great moments. Ainsley was selected to play in the ILMEA music festival, was one of 27 students out of 260 selected to win a spot at the writing showcase and received the Quincy Jones award from musicianship from her band director. (Please excuse that bit of bragging.)

I don't have many memories of my own eighth-grade graduation, other than regret over my choice of dress (bright yellow - too much even for 1980). I do remember reading through the cards I received, with their inspiring messages about looking to the future and how the best was yet to come.

I know that will be the case for Ainsley. She has an exciting summer filled with travel and her first ASP mission trip to West Virginia. And high school is just around the corner, offering a fresh start and a host of new people with whom to make friends.

It seems not that long ago that I was at Ainsley's elementary school for her kindergarten graduation. The whole thing seemed a bit silly to me, and I resented not only having to take off work but the parents who showed up with cards and flowers for their 6-year-olds.

Today I am thrilled to celebrate Ainsley's accomplishment and to remind her the best is yet to come.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean