Monday, September 3, 2012

2012.09.03 Back to School

Can you guess which of these four beautiful children is headed off to school tomorrow? 

Not too hard to know, but what is wonderful is that the other two will be eagerly awaiting the return of the schoolers every afternoon and there will be a reunion of glee before the inevitably normal sibling squabbles begin. This is a loving family.  Maggie the dog sits quietly ready to be a lap of love or a lick of promise whenever it's needed. 

If your kids don’t fight, worry. The art of a good spat is essential to the maturation and lastingness of a good relationship and to helping a kid establish his or her identity but not her superiority.  Spiritually, it teaches the art of forgiveness and the joy of reconciliation and the appreciation of differences and  individuality. 

I remember the anticipation of the first day of a new school year. In my all girls’ school in New York city we had uniforms, gunny sack navy blue serge pleated jumpers—sturdy but ugly.  They had tie belts that always slid up or down and didn’t at all enhance what I aspired to have and didn’t—a budding wasp waist. So there was no fun in laying out new clothes for the first day, unless I had new saddle shoes that sparkled.

For me the joy of the first school day of a new school year was the summer reading list. I’d usually read almost all the books on it and checked them off twice with buoyant pride, as any developing professional book nerd would do.

School in fact was a little holy for me. It made me feel like the God of my early childhood had made me feel, good about being myself. It made me feel successful and proud to be a smart girl, even if sometimes I was a smartypants girl, trying to know it all and have the last word on everything. I had plenty of playground battles over whose way was the right way. Mine of course. But I stayed friends with my friends, and I don’t know why, or how, exactly, except that I wanted to have friends more than be right. 

It’s the same in a family.  Trying to boss my younger sister didn’t work at all. For one thing she was soon bigger and stronger than me,  and for another I secretly admired her un-schoolish non-nerdy ways. I thought she had more fun. She did, but she also got into more trouble.  School wasn’t her bailiwick the way it was mine.  She found different ways to feel good about herself—like by trying to be a “son” to Dad and pissing Mom off.  We broke up and got back together more times than I can count.

You don’t learn all of life in school. You learn it by fighting and making up—all your life.  And you learn by being alone. It helps to have a dog, or a doll, or a favorite stuffed animal, or a book, a thumb to suck, a diary with a lock and key, or an invisible God who listens.