The daytime temperatures here are still stretching into the nineties. We’re weeks away from shutting down the cooler, two months (at least) from firing up the furnace.
Yet there is a hint of fall in the air. The nights are cool; some of the leaves have begun to turn.
The children have all gone back to school.
I’ll pause here so that all who desire it can indulge in a moment of celebration.
I’ll pause some more so that those of you whose children haven’t gone back to school yet can weep quietly for a moment.
I’ll pause one last time so the homeschoolers in the crowd can chuckle at the rest of us, marking time as we do by the decisions of the people who make the school calendars. Those people? Less intelligent than your average beer-can-eating goat.
I hope that those of you who do not have children, or whose children are grown, took advantage of one of the previous pauses to do whatever it is that you needed to do vis-à-vis: school schedules and summer.
I was indulging myself in my standard rant in favor of year-round schools recently and my conversation partner spoke up: It is nice, though, to have enough time for extended vacations. We usually travel at least eight weeks of every summer.
Stupid me! I almost forgot that most people take extended world-tour vacations during the summers!
Where was I?
Fall. Oh, yes.
Fall makes me nostalgic. Everything slows down; there’s a pause between the activity of summer and the frenzy of the holidays and for me? It’s time to remember.
That’s not always a good thing.
The start of a new school year? Full of promise. I’ll do all my work! I’ll never fall behind on my reading! I’ll have friends this year! I’ll be more confident! No one will pick on me!
Wrong on all counts through eighth grade. Wrong on almost all counts through the rest of the grades, except the friendlessness and the being-picked-on finally stopped.
That was a big relief. The biggest.
Every year, in spite of mounting evidence that I was wrong, that I would never keep up with my reading and have friends and be confident, I was filled with anticipation that things would be better.
Freshly sharpened pencils smell like hope.
I spent the afternoon with Abbie yesterday. She started her freshman year of high school two weeks ago. She needs me to help her with her math; she asked me for advice in mediating an argument between two of her friends. In general? She is content. Her friends are lovely girls who support each other.
Jacob is a sophomore at the high school and he is already settled in his niche. I could have predicted the crowd with which he would run when he was still a toddler; that boy is a born music and drama geek. Although he is as introverted as I am, he has friends. He struggles with his schoolwork, but he is not afraid to ask for help.
I feel terribly sad when I remember the disappointments of fall, the girls with whom I was incapable of making friends, the questions I was too afraid to ask, the lunches I skipped because I had no friends with whom to sit. But maybe, if I had not experienced all of that pain, I would not understand this joy. Jacob and Abbie know that no one has the right to treat them badly and so they don’t allow it. If anyone bothers their friends, they step in to help.
I know that they are far from perfect; children of that age tend to look out for themselves and their closest friends. They’re unlikely to take social risks for strangers. They know my story; they know one of my fondest wishes is for them to be champions of the underdog, but I’m not naïve.
I do know, however, that they have never actively bullied other children. They would have to be stupid to take a risk like that considering the promise I made to them.
My kids know that, the first time I hear from the school that one of them is bullying another child, I will be their all-day escort at school.
I will wear a giant purple clown wig.
Also, as I require a great deal of all-day comfort, I will take my big black desk chair with me and wheel it from classroom to classroom.
Yes, my friends, I take this bullying problem very seriously.
I hope that you will, too. All of our children deserve to be safe at school this year.