One of my favourite things to do is read aloud to my children. Even though they are older now and reading their own chapter books before bed each night, to my delight they still like to settle in to listen to a story.
Every year we have a favourite...last year was R.J. Palacio's Wonder. Earlier in the year we had a really good time reading a classic from my childhood: Roald Dahl's The Witches, but the top choice for 2015 is this one: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart. I read it first, and I couldn't wait to share it with my kids.
We've been on a reading marathon and the kids beg me to stay up later so that we can continue the story. We are only a few chapters from the end. I find myself getting choked up while reading certain passages, and one of my sons has shed many tears as Gemeinhart's words touch our hearts. Highly recommend!
As I drop my kids off on the last day of school, I am touched by a father standing on the opposite street corner from his child; he is recording a shot of the back of his son as he walks toward the school for the last day. I see this dad lower his phone, his capturing complete, and his satisfied smile and the look of immense pride on his face instantly bring tears to my eyes. How beautiful that he’s cataloguing this moment in a way that’s typically reserved for that all-important first day of school.
I’m reminded that as parents, we all want the same for our children: happiness, success in school, quality friendships—a feeling of mastery over something. We send our children to school with our hearts in our throats, knowing that we are passing them off to someone else for the majority of their day. We know that challenges wait for them every day, both socially and academically, and that we are putting our faith in an imperfect system—a system that has many failings but at its core, has the best intentions.
I reflect back on this particular school year and its many ups and downs. My middle child suffered repeated bullying by a classmate this year. In previous years my son was devastated if he had to miss one day—even if he was incredibly ill. This year, getting him out of the vehicle and into the building each morning was a victory. He developed anxiety and panic attacks related to both school and food and we sought counselling.
Unfortunately administration seemed to sweep this under the rug, citing that “these boys have to learn how to get along” as their solution. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t the solution, and now we are considering a move to another school as a result. Something in my son's personality fundamentally changed this year and I’m desperate to build him up and get his confidence back.
Even my oldest, who will be starting Grade 7 in the fall, has struggled. The drama—the endless gossip, cliques, and petty arguments--seemed to cloud the days. She’d be in tears most days after school, riddled with stress. “I just want to be able to focus on my schoolwork and have fun,” she’d say. I don’t blame her. I remember those junior high days well—and it’s not an easy time. My daughter is asking to be homeschooled, something I’ve never really considered seriously until now, as I’ve had a love affair with our school for many years. But I think we’ve been lucky. The love affair ends much earlier for many families, and then they are left wondering, “Is this all there is? What if I want MORE for my child?”
Teaching is a noble profession. Don’t get me wrong—our family has been blessed by some extraordinary teachers. These teachers work tirelessly, expected to do more with less every year. I am in awe of their dedication and commitment to an incredible task. I am so grateful that our children have had experiences (from their teachers) that have helped shape them, guide them, and introduce them to concepts and ways of looking at the world that they might not have gotten otherwise. Our three children have had the added benefit of fine arts instruction (art, drama, music, and dance) at their school which has broadened their world.
But as this school year comes to a close, I feel an insatiable sense of relief. For now, it’s over. We will carry on with the lazy days of summer and the vacation fun—this much needed break welcomed. Perhaps later today I will be standing on the same corner as that dad recording the moment.