Even though the ritual of walking the Girl to school isn’t exactly new to me, given that we performed that ritual with her Mum when she first went to Kindergarten, Grade 1 seemed to be a whole new thing. Well, it was for me, anyway.
Last Friday, I took the morning and walked her to school. She stayed with me the night before, and when I gave her a bath, we got to talking about Grade 1. I’ve got some feedback from other parents that indicated that going into full-time school is kind of stressful. Some kids pick up on the subtle differences between kindergarten and The Big Show of the numbered grades. I can’t remember thinking that myself at that age, but maybe I did. I can certainly understand it.
So, when I asked the Girl about the thing she liked best about Grade 1 so far, she answered “Math”.
I was astounded. And pleased. Math was my personal bugbear in school. And I was glad to hear that she wasn’t as cowed as I had been.
OK, so no fear of the actual work seems to be a problem. Her second best thing of course was seeing her friends, many of whom she’d not seen since school let out in June.
September is a pretty magical time that way, it always seemed to me. It is in many ways a better month to me for the idea of a New Year than January would ever be. Even now, it remains so. And I’m certainly seeing something of a transformation in the Girl. There is more confidence there somehow. She is coming to terms with the idea that things are moving, and that they change, and doing so with a great deal of wisdom. She’s taking the best of it, and enjoying it.
I read her a story (Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpant by Bill Peet), then she went right to sleep – no problem. By that time, she knew the drill I guess, the first day of school having been the Tuesday. But, for those days, it was mostly about orientation, and figuring out who’s class everyone was in. Friday was the day of getting down to it. It didn’t seem to faze her.
We woke up earliesh, just because I am driving across a bridge to get her to school. It’s the opposite direction from where the traffic from the ‘burbs and into Vancouver is going. But, I wanted to give it plenty of time, since driving over bridges in this area inexplicably complicates all matters. I parked in a little patch of green space in Sunshine Hills, where I used to take the Girl on walks to the park, well before the age school days.
We walked from there, careless. It was a glorious sunny day, which as you know reading this in the time it was written, has been all week. We made small talk, hand in hand down the hill. I’d told the Girl about my own Grade 1 teacher, Ms. Allen. I told her that Ms. Allen had been the one who had helped to teach me to read. You never forget the person who helped you learn to read.
The Girl as we walked to school, September 2011
When we got to the school, children, their parents, and lots of dogs on leashes awaited us. The Girl was shy, still confident, but a little on the introverted side when it came to meeting new people. She comes by that very honestly.
I told her another thing; that when I went to Grade 1, I walked to school with my friends, not driven by my Dad, or Mum. I told her that we always walked to school that way, and back home too (no parental chauffeur services then). Times have changed. I think many of the parents there were as nervous as some of the kids were, maybe remembering what going to school in a new year and new grade, wondering what awaited them there, had been like themselves.
She gave me a little squeeze, lined up, with her knapsack on her back, and filed into the school, aware or unaware of this ritual being something she would remember for the rest of her life being difficult to say.
But, perhaps that confidence she expressed the night before is the thing that counts most, not the minutiae. That to me is one of the missions of childhood – to gain confidence, build upon it, and maintain the momentum of that love of new experiences, new people in one’s life, and new lessons learned all around.
If one were to boil the value of school days down to a single focus, perhaps that’s it. Perhaps the same can be said of a great childhood in general. And we parents play our part, even if our kids will do most of the heavy lifting.