Before they leave.
Before they say goodbye or perhaps they don’t.
Before the last locker is left open.
The final pencil broken.
The room that looks so empty, the hallways so silent.
Before you realize that you never did quite get to all of the things you had hoped, but boy, did you get to a lot.
Before you realize that you can finally let go of that breath you have seemingly been holding for the past many months when you thought about these kids and those choices and their future.
Before you realize that sometimes so long really means goodbye because before the summer ends so does their lease.
Before they tell you it’s finally summer.
Before they tell you again how they can’t wait.
Before they tell you once again that they don’t really think they will be reading, but nice try anyway.
Before the last notebook is forgotten. The final sweaters left behind.
Before the final bus pulls out and you finally know that it is truly done.
Before they tell you it mattered.
Start out the conversation yourself.
Tell them that you wouldn’t trade a moment.
Tell them that you are so glad you got this year with them. That you know you have changed because of them.
That they will always be your kids.
That they will always have a home.
That there will always be a book, a hug, a piece of gum.
But tell them they are ready, even if you’re not.
Tell them that you are proud of them.
That they will be okay. That they are okay.
That you have an incredible job because they are a part of it.
Tell them you cared.
Tell them thank you.
Because without them it wouldn’t really have mattered at all…