Monday, August 20, 2007

Do I have to?


With a small interruption in the midst of my travel chronicles I break to share with your our latest events.  Upon returning from our wanderings from country to country with Grammy and Pa we faced the pending doom of the First Day.  We were all feeling a bit down and lost after waving the grandparents off at the airport and Dad and I decided we needed a bit of a "celebration" to lift the spirits.  He suggested we celebrate making it home.  I, being the practical one, suggested we go school shopping for the girls.  What better way to lift spirits than to go shopping?  Well, at least for us females, but for the man in our household we first went out to eat "one last time" . . . for enough nourishment before entering a store.  But the minute I let the word "back to school" out of my mouth both girls went into a panic.  The daily countdown and biting of fingernails began.  Lesson learned: Don't mention "back to school" mere hours after your vacation has ended.

We did buy them both a beautiful dress of their choice, each with one accessory.  And to help cover up my mistake we took them out the see a movie and eat dinner with Dad after work one of the last weekdays left.  Still we were questioned every morning, "Is today a school day?"  We've made the best out of each remaining day left to us by playing games, some of which were made up just to refresh their little minds without calling it homework, and trying to teach Squirrel Monkey how to ride her bike without training wheels.  Then, last night, we had to break the news to them that the First Day would meet them face to face when they woke up in the morning.  Naturally we broke it to them as easily as we could and we got two very interesting reactions. 

Squirrel Monkey practically leaped for joy at the thought of being back in her classroom.  She was thrilled to see her friends again, even her teacher, and to learn enough to pass the test in December so she can move on the Group 3 with the rest of her friends.  The girl could hardly keep herself from doing gymnastics in bed and we had to threaten to tie her to the bed to get her to sleep through the night.  It's no small wonder she was the first to awake this morning.

Spider Monkey, on the other hand, immediately went into a fit of tears and worry.  She begged us not to force her to go to sleep as the night was going to be to short and she'd have to wake up too early and she didn't want to have to go to school and, and, and . . .  She'd worked herself up into a sobbing mess curled on our bed with her dad.  She spilled her biggest fears to him, told him of every instance she was scorned, embarrassed, and harassed from the entire last school year up to the other day when a boy laughed at her on the street.  She even spilled why her best friend had not invited her to her birthday party which was something I've been trying to get out of her for the last two months.  With all the worry and frustrations this girl has kept pent up I'm amazed she even made it through the holiday without a complete mental breakdown.

It took some adult reasoning to sort out the truth from her own interpretations and we were soon explaining the realities of life with her.  "Some boys laugh at me because they think I'm silly," she'd sob.  Dad would ask,"Do you think they're silly sometimes?  Do you laugh at them?" An affirmative was assumed at her increased wailing and burying of head in the covers.  It took a Dad to explain that she probably wouldn't find very a many boy who wanted to be her friend for a very many years after this year anyway.  As for the girl problems, it took Mom to explain over a bowl of cereal and OJ that they are all quite fickle at times and if she can just keep a smile on her face with a bit of love and patience in her heart she'll be able to pick out the true friends from the thick of their circles.

I marched them off to school this morning in their new dresses adorned with bows in their hair and smiles (of one sort or another) on their faces.  Squirrel Monkey bowled people over trying to get to her class and, smiling at her teacher, sat down beside her.  I left her with a peck on the cheek and began the journey with Spider Monkey over to her new classroom.  Fortunately for me, she pointed out which one it was.  For a moment I was beginning to wonder if she'd feign ignorance so we could just give up and wander home mission incomplete.  Upon arrival we spotted friends; friends who called out to her with returning smiles of relief.  She hid her head from the teacher, even though it is the same woman who fought alongside us to keep her in this school, so we just slid past and found the desk with her name on it.  They'd placed her in a group of four desks with three of her favorite buddies and after I encouraged her to slip over and give them hugs the air in the room began to clear and she held her head a little higher.  I expect a positive report from her at lunch and I expect that somewhere along her life's journey she will began to understand the social aspects of the human being.  As her father stated last night after we'd settled them into bed, he's thankful that she had such a dramatic breakdown now as it can be used later for demonstration: "Do you remember when . . . It wasn't really so bad after all, was it?"

I'd sigh and thank God for not keeping me in those years for too long, but although I am not 7 years old anymore I still find myself facing those same fears.  Does it matter I'm a little better prepared after the years of trials, pains, worries, failures and successes?  I admit I was a bit nervous myself for The First Day.  Would the other mothers still smile and accept me?  Could I pull off looking the equipped and on-top-of-it mom if my daughter decided to experience a complete breakdown in front of her class and their mothers?  Yes, I think those years do matter.  Although I may still experience the feelings of fear and insecurity I can now assure myself that I can make it through them and if I don't . . . I'll still live to try again.

Here's to you, my daughters.  May you learn and live well.  You've just jumped one more of life's hurdles and I hope you remember and learn from it well.

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