Monocles and the middle school; time to move on

Ready or not (and I'm not), school's finally out - but not before the sweaty annual tradition of Field Day came and went.

My kids' school calls it "Fun Day" - and with all its sumo wrestling and Zumba dance-offs, Fun Day does seem way more fun than the blazing hot relays of my youth, my cheeks red with shame to match my fistful of honorable mention (translation: last place) ribbons.

Now that I'm a mom, I don't have to do anything involving a potato sack if I don't want to.

Instead, I landed the sweetest gig in all of Fun Day - face-painting.

Face-painters are Fun Day royalty. You get a comfy plastic chair under a tent, and you're kept at a safe distance from any and all banshee screaming.

Sure, there's artistic pressure that comes with the job. But knowing I was incapable of certain requests (the Red Sox emblem, full cat faces a la Andrew Lloyd Weber), I actively peddled my patented handlebar mustache.

And it turns out that nine out of 10 fourth-graders agreed -- a curlicue mustache was the must-have look of summer.

Surprisingly, almost all of them wanted a monocle too. I'm not sure how kids even know what a monocle is, but man, did they want one.

Maybe it was some newfound desire to look older and more sophisticated, to rise above the little-kid realms where cheeks are adorned with butterflies and rainbows.

But they're getting past all that greasy kids stuff, and they're moving on to facial hair.

Now my oldest child, Will, is also moving on to middle school.

Technically, he "graduated" from elementary school this year, but let's face it, stepping up from 4th-grade to 5th isn't that cool of a milestone. It's hardly a testament to Will's strength of character that he survived the mean streets of elementary school and learned his times tables.

But this kind of transition is just teeming with heightened nostalgia for saps like me.

Every event of spring was met with the opening line, "Awwww, Will, this'll be your last Author's Tea!" or "This is your last class party!" or "This is the last time you'll ever sing 'Be All You Can Be!'" (The school song with the fist-pumping hand gestures and the arm-in-arm swaying that gets me every time).

To which, Will yawns.

Whatever. The kid's moving on.

It's gonna take me a little while longer.

Which brings me back to face-painting - and the prize awarded for the weirdest request of the day.

I was taking a picture of the painted dragon wrapped around my daughter Lucy's arm (which she soon wished was a mustache) when I noticed a little bitty third-grader in the background. On each of her toothpick arms was painted a Kung Fu nunchuck. This blue-eyed little 3rd-grader didn't want a ladybug or a dancing unicorn. She wanted big awesome nunchucks.

These kids are growing up, and they're arming themselves for the future.

Just give 'em a five o'clock shadow and some nunchucks, and look at that they're ready to take on the world.



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