And yet! Every time I think I’m getting more comfortable with something, it changes. I’m hoping to get more comfortable with that this decade. So when two of our kids, known for good behavior and empathy, started acting out at school, I will admit Dave and I were perplexed and surprised. The reality is that each fall brings newness to each kid. While one grade may be an easy fit, another maybe as uncomfortable as a tight pair of jeans. As the kids get older, our conversations around behavior take on new connotations. Some of them still wonder at how we can possibly know what’s happening when we aren’t present. Tess is catching on for sure that some kind of digital communication is happening in the background, but the rest of them all look at us with the big eyes when we reference a choice at school or how many points they got that day.
This is Griffin’s first year of school. Unlike Tess’s first day of school ever, we knew what to expect to some degree. We love the K-3 teacher, and recognize the toys in the classroom and where the dishes sit. We know to take off Griff’s outside shoes and transition him into his classroom, hanging his coat up and putting his lunch away. We weren’t surprised to see our rambunctious boy turn shy, and watch everyone carefully. We also weren’t surprised when a few days later, he was his full, colorful self, strutting in the door like he owns the place.
As exciting as that first first day was, we found comfort in taking our fourth kid to a classroom that has been full of joy for each of our kids as they’ve gone through. The same holds true for Lilou, as she got to ride the bus for the first time and headed off to the grade school. we know some of the teachers, know that the bus will be late or unpredictable the first few days, commiserate over our generous contributions to the lost and found, and so on. While everything is new for our kids, we as parents feel some familiarity with the system, the building, and the communities embracing our kids during the day.
The gameification of life continues, and where better to experiment with it then in a grade school? Whether it’s color systems or a points systems, each of the kids classrooms has a scale. Lilou loves to tell Dave when he has slipped from green to purple. As if she can be the parent because she understands the colors better. And one of our kids is so taken with classroom buddies that they are forgetting “be quiet!” applies to them too. Nobody’s getting in any drastic trouble, but we are preparing for the next wave of parenting challenges.
We always joke that we need to stay only one step ahead of the kids that will be OK. Sometimes that step feels very short indeed. So as we walk into conferences, with a better sense of each of our kids strengths and weaknesses, we find ourselves startled, proud, full of laughter, and ready to be very serious as we communicate the importance of listening to their teachers. And for the kids this good behavior now requires more than the tying shoes and not hitting other kids; we will be watching. After all, that homework isn’t going to do itself.