Everyone reading these words has experienced the trauma of a new school; year, a new city, a new job or a new physical challenge. My thoughts on a boy starting school:
“Now you’re going to be able to go down that slide you love so much every day,” his mom told him.
“I don’t want to go in there. I don’t care about the slide.”
“Oh Jimmy, I just know you are going to love it.” “No, I won’t. I want to go home. Mommy, don’t make me go in there!”
His mom had wanted his dad to be there on this important day, but he blew her off with a dismissive, “No way. We have a big meeting at the office and I was the one who called it.”
She had told her husband that August 20 would be the first day of school months before. When he so very quickly served up his excuse, she half wondered if he hadn’t planned today’s meeting specifically to avoid having to take Jimmy to school.
Jimmy was screaming when they arrived at school. “No, no, no! I won’t go in there. Please don’t make me go in there. I want to go home.” The more Jimmy screamed, the more embarrassed his mom became and the madder she was that her husband wasn’t there to help calm their son down.
She saw a sign: ‘No parents beyond this point. We will take wonderful care of your child… promise!’
At this point the monitor at the door came over, put a gentle hand on her shoulder and said, “You can take Jimmy in. We put that sign up or we would end up having 10 mothers and fathers in the classroom with their kids howling disapproval at them for leaving. But rules are made to be broken. Go ahead and take Jimmy in. He has a wonderful teacher and she will make him feel better.”
Before they had walked ten steps toward his class he was struggling to get down and proceed on his own. In spite of his outburst outside the school, Jimmy was an independent soul with lots of self-confidence.
As soon as they reached his classroom, his teacher greeted them with a smile. Jimmy had already made eye contact with one of his favorite friends in the neighborhood. “Look mom, there’s Billy.”
And so ended the trauma of Jimmy’s first day of kindergarten.
But each beginning in life can be so traumatic and Jimmy remembered the trauma of that day, seven years before on the first day of middle school. It was almost as traumatic for Jimmy. But this time the trauma was within, not for the rest of the world to observe. The school was new, the neighborhood was new, many of his classmates were new, and now Jimmy had to get onto a bus to get to school. Jimmy’s mom was positive, as always, but Jimmy didn’t know what to expect. How alone would he feel? Would he be included in a good group? He had heard there were sometimes fights at this school. Jimmy was younger and smaller than most of his classmates. He was even sort of scared the schoolwork would be much harder.
Jimmy always liked to have everything just so. He was already more proficient using the computer than either of his parents. He was careful with his money, his toys, and even his clothes. You might say Jimmy was a 12 year-old control freak. So the first day of middle school was everything he didn’t like. ‘Will the clothes I wear be cool?
Jimmy’s body language that morning said it all. He wasn’t ready to eat. The hug he gave his mom happened only after she said, “Aren’t you going to give me a hug?” And then his hug definitely wasn’t with any enthusiasm.
“Love you, Jimmy. I’ll be thinking of you all day.” And Jimmy knew it was true. His mom was always there for him. He would survive this first day of middle school but there would be other first days his life for sure. Fortunately, life teaches us to deal with the anxiety of new beginnings.