New School Year
Thoughts for the New School Year…and Beyond
It’s Sunday afternoon and I have just returned from taking my son for his last week of summer camp. Next summer he will be too old to attend resident camp but has high hopes of becoming a junior counselor. For us, school starts in one week so this last week is a bit bittersweet for him; for all of us. The summer has been busy but one of a less structured schedule for him. While his dad and I work during the day he has been able to do his own thing (and an occasional chore). With his sister gone all week working at camp life has been pretty happy go lucky. That is all about to change; seven days and counting.
When I think back many years ago when my little girl took off to school for the first time I remember the excitement in her eyes. She was going to ride the school bus, eat in the cafeteria, go to the library and learn lots of cool stuff. As weary as I was about sending her off to big school I knew that the best thing her dad and I could do was to let her go off on her own and become a big girl. Flash forward six years later and my sweet little brown eyed boy climbed up the school bus steps waved good-bye and began his school career just like his sister. As my children begin their new school years this year my now 20 year old daughter is beginning her third (yes THIRD) year of college and my almost 15 year old son will be in the 10th grade. My mind struggles to comprehend just how we go to this point in our lives. One thing I know is that I have always insisted that my children earn their own way through school. I have always been there to assist them if they needed something but I can honestly say they are where they are academically because of their hard work and dedication.
There seems to be a trend for parents to try to oversee everything their child does at school. Quite often I have had discussions with parents of younger children who have tried to move their child out of a class because they (the parents) didn’t like other children in the class and wanted to shield them from social differences. Parents of older children have expressed their concerns over teaching styles and classroom management. The school bus is also a hot topic during this time of year; parents are opting to drive their kids to school because they don’t want their kids to be exposed to “those kids” on the bus.
When I hear these types of comments I find myself becoming agitated, angry in fact, because these particular parental behaviors are doing nothing positive for the children. As difficult as it was for me to put my kids on the school bus for the first time I knew that I had to trust that they were going to be okay. Was it always a pleasant experience? No and if there were issues that needed my attention I was there to discuss the situation and work with administration to find a solution. Have there been students in my children’s classes who were had less than desirable behaviors and caused a problem here and there? Yes. Once again I would work with administration to find a solution but have never insisted that my children be moved from a class because of another student. Life does not work that way so why should it work that way with our children.
As parents we need to find a way to let our children grow and learn to become responsible, free thinking adults. As difficult as it is to watch your little girl go out the door with mismatched socks, striped leggings and a polka dot shirt you need to let her go. When your son insists on staying up past his bedtime and then struggles getting up in the morning, don’t offer to let him sleep in and drive him to school; he made the decision to stay up and must face the consequences. In order to learn responsibility, independence and self-confidence children must be given the opportunity to struggle with homework, social issues, difficult teachers and long bus rides. Standing by our children is essential in their growth and development; however, carrying them through every difficult situation will do more harm than good. With my own children I have learned that when they make tough decisions on their own they are more likely to err on the side of caution because they know they are responsible for those decisions.
No matter what age or stage your children are in I encourage you to take a step back and allow them to make decisions, deal with consequences and enjoy some independence. Naturally the process would start in small steps with young children and gradually grow with them as they grow. For me, as I stand back and look at the big kids that now call me momma I am so thankful that their daddy and I have allowed them to become their own person. I am excited to continue the journey of life watching them as they continue their education, make their choices in careers, life partners and with their own children someday. We are each given one life to live; it’s not fair for us to try to live theirs for them. Happy school year.
Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!