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Dogs and high school graduates have brains but we can’t be sure about their mothers

One of the more difficult things about having a zillion kids is the gap in age between the older kids and younger kids. This is also a bonus, as both older kids and younger benefit from having each other around. Certain occasions magnify the differences and those differences were more apparent the past few weeks with Aidan graduating from high school.

She is a singer and has been a valued member of her high school’s choirs since freshman year. I’ve watched her grow in confidence and skill over time and each concert or performance meant more than the last. The final concert of the school year was scheduled for May 14th and I looked forward to it for weeks, my eyes tearing-up every time I thought about how it was The Last.

In a rush of foolish optimism, we decided the whole family would attend. Maybe Ollie would fall asleep? Maybe he’d feel inspired to listen? Maybe he’d temporarily forget he is two-years-old because apparently we forgot he is two-years-old. For an hour on a Thursday night, he’d channel the behavior of Sir Topham Hatt of the Island of Sodor Hatts. He was a perennial gentleman amongst a sea of cheeky engines and bossy sprockets.

Ollie did great until the choirs streamed out from behind the curtain and began to fill the risers. I pointed out Aidan, hoping a glimpse of his sister would enthrall him. As he sees her daily, this held his attention for .026 seconds and he wanted to leave. I eyerolled out of my seat, up the aisle, and ended up following him around for most of the concert. I could have grunted at Mr. Lifenut to do it, but he missed her previous two concerts because he was sick and it wouldn’t be fair for him to miss this, too. I took one for the team.

He'd rather do this than listen to teenagers sing.

He’d rather do this than listen to teenagers sing.

So, I followed, followed, followed him all over the high school. Near the end of the concert, we hovered in the auditorium doorway and watched. Then, unexpectedly, he made a mad, flailing dash down the aisle and I had to run after him. He was the Indiana Jones to my rolling boulder. My husband noticed, scooped him up, and took him out as I returned to my seat with an audible “Damnit!” I immediately regretted.

The concert ended about five minutes later. We made our way to the lobby and found Ollie sleeping peacefully on my husband’s shoulder.


With the concert fresh in my mind, I tried to picture what graduation would be like with the whole gang in the audience again. At least it was at an event center so if I had to pace halls, they’d be new. We took separate vehicles so my husband could bring the little ones as late as possible. My mom and I saved most of an entire row of seats. It was one of the more obnoxious things I’ve ever done, but I desperately wanted all of us to be together. They arrived and everyone piled into the row but there was still a half hour wait. We sprinkled little ones between older kids. My husband took Ollie on a pre-emptive jog around the arena to burn off energy. They returned just as Archie and Teddy announced they had to go to the bathroom. Ollie said he did, too. He’s still in pull-ups and never actually goes. It wasn’t the time to indulge his whim to sit for .026 seconds on an arena toilet seat, so they went without him. Mistake.

Ollie screamed just as “Pomp and Circumstance” started and the Class of 2015 walked out of the backstage area in solemn blue lines. “Potty! Potty! Got to go potty now!” So, I got up and took him to the bathroom at one of the most dignified moments of the night. The music and the emotion were overwhelming and my throat caught. I was going to miss my firstborn marching out in her cap and gown because my lastborn wished to pretend to go potty for a split-second.

In the ladies’ room, I could hear the music as I balanced Ollie on a toilet. “Done!” he said immediately. Then, he washed his hands and I hustled him out, back up a flight of stairs and into the bright, loud scene. I was thankful our last name begins with “W” because that meant she’d be at the end of the line.

God bless alphabetical order.

I watched for her and didn’t see her. I was alarmed. Where was she? The whole time she had been on stage, with the choir, waiting to sing the national anthem. Then, Ollie fell asleep.

On cue, Teddy, age 4, claimed the role of Squirrelly Young Child.

He ended up in Ollie’s now-empty seat. He tried to play with my camera. He played with the chair, sat on the floor, made himself into a ball, sat upside down, and sighed heavily. Graduations are boring. They just are and it’s okay to admit it. After the customary 49 speeches, school officials began to read off the graduates’ names. We’d have a long way to go to get to “W”.

Curse alphabetical order.

Around “K”, Teddy abruptly popped up from the floor and asked me, “Do dogs have brains?”

Yep. They do. Dogs have brains. Even our dogs.

Finally, Aidan’s row was rising to make their way to the stage where she’d climb steps, shake hands, and be declared done. She was about to be…done. My heart practically exploded. “Watch!” I ordered Teddy. He paused and watched his biggest sister in her weird hat get a black folder. She shook many hands and returned to her seat with a small but bright smile. A few minutes later, she threw her weird hat into the air.


Somewhere between potty mania, contemplating canine anatomy, and watching her hat sail up near the rafters and back down again, I realized how crazily blessed I was to witness my child graduate from high school while surrounded by constant reminders of where she’s been. Just yesterday, she was small and bored and wearing pull-ups. She wondered about doggies and why the moon looked like it was chasing us when we drove the car at night. Our little ones made these big moments better, even if they were momentarily stressful. Each graduation should be less wacky than the one before until someday I’ll simply sit and listen and field questions from nobody but myself.

Like, “Hey. Where did time go?”

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