Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 28, 2009

First Day Jitters

We had a stomach virus run through our house like a freight train this week, so my son Graham missed his first two official days of school. Thus he gets to start on a Friday, which if one wants to ease back into the fall routine, is not so bad. Which is good, because he was nervous, mostly over the social piece of what school is all about. So now he gets the whole weekend to strategize who he’s going to play tic-tac-toe with during free time, and to reconcile himself to the fact that he apparently doesn’t have any “old” friends in his new 2nd grade classroom.
Other than the teacher, that is… a nice woman who worked him like a dog in kindergarten (I’m not complaining, just noting it). But she was then moved up to 2nd grade last year, where she’s probably a better fit for kids with better thinking skills.
But that old bugaboo of living in a quite populous and somewhat transient town has come up again. As far as how they divided up the three classfulls of second graders, I just don’t get it. He was first moved out of a kindergarten class (away from some familiar boys from the neighborhood). That was second week of school 2007, in order to start a third classroom with the required (lower) number of students. Then he had only 1/3 to 1/2 of his kindergarten class with him again in his same first grade classroom. And now he seems to have even fewer of the familiar first graders in his second grade class. So his closest friends are now almost all next door or down the hall. As a teacher myself, I know we can’t (or shouldn’t expect to) pick who our kids’ peers and teachers will be. But we’ve had three straight years of pretty lousy lottery results, and frankly, it sucks.
I don’t want to be the whiny parent with a huge sense of entitlement, because as teachers and conscientious suburbanites, my wife and I have always been bugged by those very parents (some of them our peers) and their spoiled ways — not to mention the ways they spoil their kids. But it’s hard to keep throwing Graham in the deep end, each year, and saying “swim” when he’s struggling to even tread water in developing friendships and trust. I know he’ll be able to multiply, and how to spell fuschia, well-ahead of the other kids. What I don’t know is will he be “last one picked” forever, the boy holed up in his house far too much because he’s not on any other kid’s radar? And among the local parents, I suspect Sue and I probably occupy a similar position, though we’ve tried to be otherwise.
He’s a sweet, thoughtful kid, and generally doesn’t connect with the extra energy and Transformer-crazed tendencies of most boys his age. In fact, okay… I’ll say it: he’s probably a nerd. It takes one to know one. And as for me “turning out okay”, I’m not always so sure. Nevertheless, I’m trying to trust that he’ll do okay, that we’ve equipped him to get through it again, to make a few NEW friends … again… and not continue forever in this “odd man out” role.
It hurts to just wait and see, though. It reminds me of two basic spiritual truths that I only recently learned to accept (or mostly accept):
1) Life is hard.
2) I am not in control.
Not that I’m going to let him drown. But school’s hard, too. Maybe it’s better he learn it now, the hard way. But it’s a real pain for a parent to stay back and just let it happen.
Swim boy, swim!


  1. I can’t imagine how much it must hurt to see your child struggle with what seem like unfair situations and not be able to fix them.

    He is a good kid though.

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