This past weekend was a very important weekend – a rite of passage, you might say. My 15-year-old freshman son Palmer attended his Exeter High School freshman formal!
And while you might think I'm going to say it was an important rite of passage for HIM – you should know me better than that by now. This was all about ME – and my rite of passage!
OK, OK – it was a pretty big deal for Palmer, too. It wasn't his first dance – he got his first taste of school dances at Reiffton Elementary in fifth grade, with his first Monster Mash Bash. But those dances are just about all the kids showing up, dancing as a large group and getting very, very sweaty.
No, the freshman formal is a much bigger deal than that. It was a – take a date, dress up, corsage, after party – kind of dance ... and as big a deal as it was for Palmer – it was huge for me.
Let me say, in the interest of transparency, that there were a few tears shed. But there was also a feeling of pride in seeing the man my son is becomming.
Palmer is my first born, and I have spent the last 15 years preparing him for nights like Saturday night. My job as a mom is to get my kids ready to step confidently into the world. And I think I have done pretty well so far! Palmer has never been afraid to step out – auditioning for plays and chorus solos, trying out for county band and county chorus. And this year, wanting to move up from bass drum to the snare line in next year's marching band, he worked his butt off to nail his audition. He approaches school with the commitment he should, and has had a great freshman year. He's cautious when he needs to be and is an empathetic and loyal friend.
Palmer has been looking forward to 'formal' for several months. He hangs around with a great group of kids, and everyone was going. Some were going solo and others took dates. But everyone was planning to hang out together and have a great time. Palmer took a date.
An added consideration was the fact that someone was having an after-party. And while Palmer started the conversation with: 'I know you won't let me go, but …' of course I let him go. The after-party was going until 1 a.m., and as I was trying to figure out how to stay awake that late on a Saturday night, he actually said he thought he didn't want to be out till 1 a.m., and could I come at midnight. (By the way – he called at 11:30 and said he was ready to come home).
A week before the party, I took him to the florist to order a corsage. He knew he wanted red, to match his shirt and her black dress – so that meant roses. And on Saturday I took him back to pick it up. OK, I experienced a little sticker shock, but it was worth every penny!
Suddenly it was time to go pick up Palmer's date and take them to the dance. I had some butterflies – oh yeah, Palmer did, too. He looked so handsome and so excited. Pictures were taken in the garden, and it was time to go.
As I pulled up to the high school to drop the kids, that's when I started to get a little misty (not that the kids saw me). There they all were – many of the kids I've known since daycare and pre-school days. As I pulled away, and had a few minutes by myself, the last 15 years flashed before my eyes. I had glimpses of the past – of a toddler learning to walk, of pushing him on a swing and hearing him laugh, paddling in a backyard pool and putting him on the school bus for the very first time.
I know Palmer and some of his friends read my column, so I hope he doesn't read this and get embarrassed. He's used to me by now, I hope. It's never my intent to embarrass him – just to share a little bit of our lives.
And to Palmer's friends, who might be chuckling at his sentimental mom, I'll say this – the formal was a big deal for your parents, too! You may not have seen them get misty eyed, and of course they never let on. But I know many of your parents. I know how much they care about you and take pride in you.
Each of these new experiences for you is a new one for us as well – and it's another step closer to your independence.
Palmer's freshman formal is another one of those memories that I will file away in my memory banks – to think about at graduation in three years, on Palmer's wedding day and when he brings his first child home from the hospital.