I am thrilled to introduce a guest post by Britt Lee. An brilliant woman who shares her unique perspectives on life with her blog: http://eastmeetsbreast.wordpress.com/
I was lucky to meet her about 28 years ago at a little spot called Unionville High School.
by Britt Lee
It’s possible my kid doesn’t entirely loathe school. It’s the wondering that’s nibbling at my peace and hollowing an area for dread and doubt in my belly. I distract myself with all of reasons he should love school—why isn’t he skipping to the bus stop with his backpack full of right answers? Doesn’t he know that with only a dozen days remaining, he can relax into the final moments of a grade he won’t remember in 30 years time? Is he truly excited about summer fun and different friends, or just anxious to put these last, tortured school days in the rearview? Is it really that bad?
Search me. He can’t seem to put it into words… only teary shoulder shrugs… the kind that let you feel the full weight of your parental shortcomings.
Fourth grade was a bit miserable for me, too. My teacher was weirdly formal and strict and everyone hated him. I was the new kid in school, and because I was very shy and way ahead of the class in writing and math, I was his fast favorite. The New Kid/Teacher’s Pet combo wasn’t ideal for making friends. This was also the year that a handful of girls decided boys weren’t gross and those odd, approximated couplings with them were in fashion. Yuck! Boys were loud and naughty and mean. Boys aimed for your face during dodge ball and called you names they learned from older siblings and threw worms at you. The only boy I was interested in was Ryan, because maybe he’d teach me how to do those cool three-dimensional drawings. But even he was, you know… gross.
I wanted to cry many days in fourth grade. I wasn’t bullied or harmed. I didn’t feel unsafe or unloved. I was just… unhappy. Was it really that bad? Well, if I remember it this clearly 30 years later, maybe so.
I’ve done my parental due diligence, making certain my little guy isn’t being bullied or harmed, and that he feels safe and loved. But even so, sometimes school—like a job or a relationship or the course Life is taking-- is just shitty. It’s difficult enough for grown folk in therapy to construct a thesis about Why Things Suck, and nearly impossible when you’re 10 years old. But how can I convince my child that salad days are ahead?
Search me. Instead I shared my own tales of Fourth Grade Nothingness--that I had the wrong jeans and few friends, how I made that weird teacher start hating me to right my reputation with the class mob, and why dodge ball is evil. I didn’t promise inevitable salad days for my gorgeous, smart little guy. In the moment, I don’t think that helps. For him, fifth grade is one million years away and he’s stuck in a purgatory between bells. I told him that it’s normal for school to be occasionally weird and awful and upsetting and boring because, for me, that’s how it was.
“So it’s… OK? I’m right to not like it?”
“You betcha, kiddo. Totally OK. Some people are jerks, some days just suck, and lacrosse is a huge pain the ass… but don’t use those words, or tell anyone I did.”
And then… the only utterance that could lift the weight of parental shortcomings: a giggle.
Today, my little guy dismounted the bus without any signs of dismay. There’s a new Avengers comic book waiting for him, there’s very little homework, and the only bad news to report was a forgotten jacket. The smell of lilacs is in the air, an always cozy home awaits, and a solemn promise has been issued: fourth grade will end. Maybe in 30 years time he won’t remember fourth grade, but I hope he remembers our shared complaints about it, showing him an alternate approach to the endurance of un-pleasantries that won’t shame him into false enjoyment or gloomy forbearance. No one can stop the clock! And with great luck, there will always be a kindred spirit who wants to commiserate… with a bit of humor and a few whispered, naughty words.