Today, my only child, Asher, is seven, and I have been having trouble with this word seven; the number seems to stick in my mouth like…I want to say like cotton candy, even though that’s not entirely sticky on the tongue. But the word sticks. I can’t get it out of my mouth without my brain misfiring
When I was seven – and going into second grade like Asher – I went to a small Christian private school, and once I reached third grade, the school became all girls. We were taught all the likely suspects: math, science, reading, French. (I know, French. Not sure why it was French exactly.) And because this school was Christian, we had chapel each Wednesday morning. God fit nicely into education through osmosis or some such organic process. I was unaware that school could be any different, as most kids are, I suppose.
Most importantly, things were spelled out for us. Life fit into boxes and was black and white. This was different than that, Big Bird told us, and that was the same as this. Sure, we watched some TV, but there was no Internet, no constant scrolling distraction. (No fake news that anyone was aware of.) The most controversy that arose was when someone’s parents divorced. Funny how that was the definition of an abnormal family.
My boy’s early school experience has been pretty different. Since pre-school, he has attended a progressive arts-based school in a building that is LED certified, built solely with environmentally-friendly materials. The other two school buildings are an old barn and farm house. The students have singing meeting each morning just to start the day in joy and togetherness, and the entire elementary school sings happy birthday to each kid on their birthday. The school is built entirely around community in every way possible.
It’s my husband’s and my nirvana, and we wanted our only child to have at least a few years of solid nurturing in such an environment, even if it sometimes meant that paying the mortgage was a stretch.
Our son is growing up well, but despite the sanctuary of his idyllic farm school, the outside world is still getting in, particularly as Ash plays more and more with neighborhood children of various ages. The kids seem to clump together, six and seven-year-olds mixing in with eleven and twelve-year-olds. And while this is lovely, it is also not so lovely.
I struggle weekly with uncomfortable situations like kids on iPads and iPhones, exposing my son to unsavory song lyrics, dance moves, and colorful cuss words. The outside is getting in, no matter how hard we’ve tried to isolate him in a sturdy blue cocoon of love and happiness. Not to mention, Ash will be in public school next year, and this causes more worry than you can know, perhaps.
But we cannot keep the world at bay, no matter how hard we try, and this seems to be the biggest heartbreak of parenthood. “Life” just gets in. Things that are same and different don’t fit so neatly into separate boxes. As if they ever did.
Despite all of this, I know my son is coming out OK, that he has a solid foundation of gooey marshmallow love and acceptance from which to spring forward. And these are the reasons I know:
- He is kind to everyone and is willing to offer up his favorite Nerf gun or a giant piece of bubble gum from his birthday pinata.
- He says he is sorry after angry outbursts and then tries to explain why he is upset. “I am just having a bad day, mommy,” or “I am just tired.”
- When he does something not so good, like sharing a bad word he learned with a school friend, he is often completely unaware it was wrong, and once we explain why “the action” was wrong, he is immediately remorseful and teary-eyed.
- He won’t ditch a friend he has invited to the park for a different friend who shows up unexpectedly.
- If a friend has given him a piece of candy earlier in the day, he will tell me he has already had dessert at the end of dinner. He still asks for a second dessert (I mean, he is seven), but he believes in full disclosure.
- He squeezes in between his dad and me each time we kiss or hug, dropping whatever he is doing to soak up some love.
- He is bold, courageous, and strong-willed. All of these traits are forming an alliance inside him. He is a leader, when in the right crowd, and he doesn’t allow himself to get pushed around by older kids when he’s the youngest and smallest.
- He is humble.
I am pretty convinced these could be the eight necessities for any decent human. Not much else is required to be a good citizen.
Stay strong. Be a good friend. Be kind. Feel bad when you mess up. Don’t get too big for your britches. Oh, and eat blue ice cream when it’s your birthday.