BEUSCHEL: Transitions: retirement and entering middle school

Summer is on the wane. How do I know? An onslaught of school supply sales backed up by Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving decorations.
Aug 21, 2014

As I watch summer move into fall, I am experiencing a tinge of sadness as I see my oldest granddaughter prepare to start middle school in a few weeks and witness the fading of her childhood. At the same time, I am “graduating” from elementary school and moving into retirement — also with a tinge of sadness as I leave a career that I have loved.

We both have some major transitions ahead of us.

Having grandchildren has given me the opportunity to watch children grow firsthand again. It’s so much fun to explore all the childhood activities with them. It’s interesting to see what they are drawn to and enjoying seeing them try new things. There’s the bikes, dolls, cartoons, movies, books, Legos, swing sets, excitement over birthdays and holidays.  Children exhibit that pure wonder and thrill of new experiences that makes being a grandparent so much fun.

I’m not sure I’m as excited about seeing my granddaughter reach puberty. I feel the viewing of the puberty video in fourth grade seemed to start her move out of childhood into the world of adults. It raised a lot of questions in her mind, and they would suddenly pop up usually while we were riding in the car.  I was able to handle some of them, but her mother is much better at this kind of thing than I am, so I frequently referred her back to her mom. Often, I felt her questions were way too advanced for her age.

I’ve listened to the music she likes when we’re riding in the car and I am disheartened at the content, language and innuendos. Some of the underlying messages she does not catch, but they’re still there, waiting for her to someday “get it.”

Then I put in my ‘60s CD with all my old favorites and remember back to when my grandma was horrified watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show with me. Let’s not forget the Beatles with their moppish hair styles and all the other performers of that era who shocked our parents.

Much to the chagrin of our parents, we made it through all that, and so I guess she will, too. It’s a rite of passage for one generation to stretch the limits of the generation before them. In my head, I can understand this; but in my heart, I want to shelter and protect her.

It will be interesting to see what challenges middle school brings for her.  

As I’m watching her make this transition, I am making my own. Due to a retirement incentive being offered by my school district after the school year ended, I made a decision to retire one year earlier than I had planned on doing. This has meant the summer has been filled with getting all the paperwork for Medicare and Office of Retirement Services done quickly and, at the same time, emptying out 19 years of accumulated stuff from my school office.

Retiring might just prove to be just as much an adjustment as going to middle school for the first time. I’m sure that first day of the school year will seem a bit odd to me, but I think I can talk myself into enjoying the rest of the “Today Show” with my second cup of coffee while still in my pajamas. I may just pick up a dozen or more doughnuts and bring them over to my colleagues to let them know I’m thinking about them. Hmmmm? Better give that idea some more thought.

I’ve had my mental bucket list ready for years, just waiting for this opportunity; but now that it has arrived, I really don’t think I’ll push ahead too rapidly on my list. New endeavors have surfaced, like joining a local chapter of a service sorority and working some exercise classes into my schedule at the Four Pointes senior center. I also realized that I can go and visit my grandchildren in Texas any time I want to and not have to wait for the vacation times during the school year calendar. I think my transition will be adapting to more freedom of choice than I had when working full-time.

Counter to that, my granddaughter’s adjustment will be to less freedom of choice, as the school day pretty much dictates what activity to do and when. After a busy summer at day camp, going on field trips and swimming, along with movies and games, she will be getting down to more serious daily activities. I hope that her transition goes well and she finds enjoyment and success at being in school.

I toured my granddaughter’s middle school today with her and her mom. It’s an unfamiliar building to me, and I walked around with them thinking how much she has to learn to just get through the first day. Working the lock on the locker proved to be the hardest thing to do. Even with all three of us it took several attempts, and by then my granddaughter wasn’t much interested in whether she could do it or not. Somehow it will all work out for her.

I guess as we both move through our own transitions, the best plan will be one step at a time, one day at a time. That’s always seemed to be the wisdom of the ages. I’ll hold on to that and share it with her. Hopefully, my gray hair won’t cause the message to lose its strength.

— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist

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