For a brief time this afternoon I didn’t look at my phone. Not for email, not for text messages, not for status updates. Instead I stood in the school cafeteria and scooped sticky spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream and handed paper bowls to a seemingly endless line of fifth graders.

It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to being a fly on the wall, albeit an outer wall with more obstruction than view. I was trying to blend in; I wanted my girl to be happy that I was there, but not embarrassed to have her mom at the Valentine’s Day party. So I hung back, even after the other moms (and the one dad) and I wiped up the runaway sprinkles and the drips of chocolate syrup. I watched without talking, and refrained from whipping out my phone to take a picture or two. I was determined to soak it in, these few final moments of elementary school and innocent co-ed parties.

Once upon a time, before I knew there were ticks and tocks.

Once upon a time, before I knew there were ticks and tocks.

Those ticks and tocks that taunted me one room over a few months ago, as I sat in the gymnasium and watched my 80’s clad girl belt out GoGo’s and Journey songs, had receded just a bit. Until yesterday. Yesterday—our parent teacher conference– was the true beginning of the countdown of lasts. There are no more holidays to interrupt the ticks. No more pretending that the tocks might go away.

Instead there’s the joy of watching this girl—the one who first walked into her school a sweet little kindergarten student—flit between tables of friends as easily as a butterfly navigates milkweed. I loved watching her hug one friend after another, strike up conversations with girls and boys, and steal sour gummy worms from her best friend’s ice cream bowl when that friend turned her head. It won’t show up in my Instagram feed but I doubt I’ll ever forget the look on her face as she tried to not giggle when she swiped the worm, and how that stifled smile turned into bright red cheeks, tight upturned lips, a duck of the head and a sideways glance that I know depicts guilt but friends probably think is just silly.

Because that’s who she is, there. Silly and mischievous but not obnoxiously so. Her teacher told me in yesterday’s conference that she has a reputation for being the baker, the cupcake expert, the friend anyone can talk to and the student other teachers admit they had in their class. Pretty great way to finish up her elementary school years, I think.

For just a minute, I let myself forget that I was sad that my last baby is growing up and instead tried to see her through the eyes of so many of her friends in that loud cafeteria. I tried to forget that hormones go crazy when kids move from elementary school to junior high, and instead reminded myself that even though the school will change the kids won’t.

She won’t.

Not at her core, anyway, though I’m sure we’ll have our ups and downs once this transition occurs. Like her brothers, she’ll stop asking me to cuddle and go from calling me mommy to mom, at least when other people are around. She’ll probably talk to me less and close her bedroom door more often and tell her friends that I just don’t understand.

But not yet. Not today.

And today was good.

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