This morning, toward the end of my walk with Scout, I turned the corner to witness a five-year old standing on his front driveway underneath one of those 50-gallon backpacks. His mother was taking photographs and crying all at the same time.
"Are you excited about school? I asked.
"Yes, we are," his mother replied.
"How about you?" I squatted down at eye-level with the brand-new Kindergartener.
He looked right past me, more interested in the huge fur-ball on the end of the leash beating a hole in the concrete with her tail. "I want to play with the puppy," he said.
I can vividly remember "first day" for both Andrew and Naomi - walking up the street like giant turtles - a tousle of hair at the top, shiny new sneakers at the bottom, and giant back-packs in-between. We were fortunate enough to live about 400 yards from Cordova Park Elementary and they didn't have to ride a bus.
School buses are like huge yellow soda cans. They shake up the children for anything from 20-minutes to over an hour and they arrive at school completely carbonated, spilling out like agitated froth when the lid is pried off.
When I taught emotionally disturbed children I always lobbied hard for shorter bus routes. I got in trouble with my principal for (among other things!) inviting parents to watch the buses load or unload so they could make an informed decision about transportation.
"It's not good policy to expose the parents to the other children in this setting," I was told. As if our lives would be easier if we kept families in the dark.
Yet we still insist on packing large numbers of children into small spaces with limited supervision... Buses, locker rooms, bathrooms, hallways... and then we act surprised at the results when things go wrong.
I'm concerned about this new school year. We talk a lot about education - especially vis-a-vis politics - but it seems that children are still a low priority as a bottom line.
And I'm not talking about money. I'm talking about the investment of ourselves, the way we live, the way we order things.... More about this in another post.
Meanwhile; let's pray for parents, teachers, schools, children... and make sure we're creating the kind of world we want them to grow up in.
Peace - DEREK