Once you become the parent of a high schooler, you no longer have access.
Whereas when your kids were little, you got to be the best cookie-doling mom, the best chatty, advice-giving group chauffeur mom, the best, nicest, coolest mom who stood outside the school handing out Popsicles on hot days, by the time your child gets to high school, you are the best mom when you are invisible.
Whereas in elementary school, you were the beloved Tuesday afternoon mommy reader with second-graders clinging to your ankles when you tried to leave, once your child gets to middle school, Mom in the classroom is weird.
Show up on a regular basis at the high school, and even the teachers will wonder what you’re doing.
There will still be the occasional opportunity to volunteer. You may be asked from time to time to ride the bus to a choir event or sports competition. But now, instead of leading the class in “Kumbaya” to help pass the time, you will be relegated to the front with the driver while the kids hang in the back sharing YouTube videos.
You can accept this line of demarcation as necessary and appropriate, finding healthy ways to express your displacement outside the presence of your child and his peers.
Or, like me, you can buy a really big camera and become the unofficial parent-photographer.
In fact, if I have one piece of advice to offer newbie parents of incoming high school students, I would say: Put your money in Nikon or Canon. This ostensibly will be because you want to preserve the moments of your child’s high school experience.
Really, the camera becomes your ticket in. Just as the parent with the best cookies used to get the best seat at the PTA meeting, now the parent with the biggest camera gets asked by the choir director to stand really close and take photographs. The soccer coach will invite you onto the sidelines with the team.
In this age of the instant selfie tweet-a-gram, when everybody’s looking for a new profile shot, even the kids will love to see you coming to their events.
“Everybody can put their phone cameras down! Mrs. Hook is here!”
There are other ways to get access, of course.
You can work in the lunchroom. You can be a teacher or a teacher’s aide or a guidance counselor or the school principal.
But when you have a big camera, you can hide behind the big lens and see everything.
You can become the mom for whom the kids reserve their real smiles, whose dedication is preserved in perpetuity, or at least until Facebook and Instagram go belly up.
No longer the invisible mom – au contraire – you become the mom whom parents and kids alike look forward to seeing when it’s time to take photos before the prom.
Some might say that all you’re doing is prolonging the inevitable.
You get that close to a group of kids all over again, and it makes the leave-taking quadruply difficult when they all graduate.
I stood on the sidelines and held my camera on the faces of some 40 soccer players at every scrimmage and game, every banquet and celebration for my son’s team for four years.
Now, instead of one, I have 40 boys to bid goodbye as my son takes his leave of high school.
But then I also have my pictures to keep in perpetuity, too.
I have hundreds of photos to post on Throwback Thursdays.
I can make a bank of slideshows, laced with the music of their day, and feel all the displacement I want, any time I want, at 60 frames a minute.
Yep, if you used to be a best mom, you might want to get yourself a big camera.
You’ll relish the lingering pixels, long after the real images have clicked “delete.”
Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988.