Another School Year, Already?

Henry and I probably had the same thoughts running through our heads, although for different reasons. Tomorrow would be another milestone: his first day of middle school.

Henry’s backpack was on the kitchen table, filled with spiral notebooks and freshly-sharpened pencils. The bus slip rested on top, next to the paper that outlined his schedule and locker combination. His clothes already picked out, Henry fidgeted atop his bunk bed while I sat at the desk underneath, wishing the clock would stop. It was essentially the last night of summer, although the calendar wouldn’t say so until later this month.

Henry and I probably had the same thoughts running through our heads, although for different reasons. Tomorrow would be another milestone: his first day of middle school.

I remember the day we sent him off to kindergarten like it was yesterday—and it feels like it was yesterday. How could so much time have gone by so fast? That day was a lot different. My wife and I stood outside, camera ready as he walked confidently down the sidewalk. We walked him to school, which was nearby, then chatted with other anxious parents as we waited. The emotions didn’t really hit until the bell rang and he and the other children rushed inside and I realized he wouldn’t stay little forever.

The emotions were a little different this time around, as well. Sure, there were the same nostalgic memories of first steps, first words and hearty belly laughs. There was also a little more anxiety. Elementary school is—for kindergarteners, at least—a relatively benign place. Middle school can be a bit more taxing, a little more challenging to a developing person’s ego. And the bus? I’m sure there are people who have fond memories of bus rides to and from school, but I am not one of them. Looking back, I’d guess that my first time climbing on to a bus and being subjected to the frequently mean-spirited jabs of the other passengers was probably what awakened my desire to learn to drive.

Of course, I felt like we’d prepared him as best we could. We tried to instill in him values like respect and courtesy, which seem so rare these days. I know intellectually he can defend himself against any verbal barb. He has an uncanny ability to make friends. But, despite the best intentions of school districts and legislators, bullying exists everywhere. That is somewhat different now, too. Not to say that bullying is worse now than it ever has been, but there are different avenues for it, thanks to the prevalence of the Internet and cell phones. How do you prepare young people for that?

The answer is somewhat simple, somewhat complex. You do it the same way you always have—or always should have. You teach them to respect other people’s boundaries, to think before they act—or react. You try to get them to realize that different people react to things differently, and what you may think is funny, someone else may not. And you hope other parents do the same.

I had all of this fatherly advice ready this morning as I pulled my sandals on over my socks, ready to walk Henry down to the bus stop—and looked up to see his horrified expression.

“You’re not going to walk me down there, are you?” He asked.

“Um. No. I…uh...just needed something out of the garage.” My voice sounded a little thick, so I disguised it by clearing my throat.

“Okay dad. Bye Dad. Love you mom,” he called, and walked down the driveway and confidently down the street where another child was already waiting. I stayed at the edge of the drive, just out of sight, but was with him all the way.

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Scott Spielman September 06, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Thanks Jenny!
Sandra Groth September 08, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I cannot believe that Henry that I used to read about is already beginning middle school. Time has a way of slipping by doesn't it Scott? Coming from a Mom of a now 32 year old child with a one year old child of her own I can tell you there will be many times you want to fight some battles, fend off some hurts and just say stay home today honey but with lots of prayer, and more prayer, and lots of love and encouragement Henry and you and mom will all do fine! I am definitely a voice from your past - do you remember? It was good to read your words again!
Scott Spielman September 10, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Thanks Sandy! Good to hear from you, too! I was sorry to hear your election bid in Plymouth Township fell short. Stay active!
cmg September 10, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I'm reading this and laughing. When my oldest started 6th grade he was too cool for me to drop off at school. I had to stop 2 blocks away, turn the radio down when the door opened and he would run out. That lasted a year. 7th grade, he came back to me. I was cool again. Now he's in 8th, I'm still cool. My youngest started 6th this year. Yep, stop here MOM! Jumps out of the car and he's gone. But I was prepared, I told him I'd see him next year again when he starts 7th.
Sandra Groth September 11, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Scott - my fortune cookie tonight said "Failure is the only opportunity to begin more intelligently" therefore I am assured that God does have a purpose for me right here in Plymouth Township and I intend to pursue it! Thanks for your kind words!


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