Yesterday, August 26. A day of days for the Collins family. My son Noah started his first day of school (kindergarten) yesterday. Twenty-one years before that was the day I left the unfriendly confines of Mount Vernon, New York for the greener pastures of college life at the University of Pittsburgh. A lifetime of changes coming down to one date, one time, for both father and son.
Noah wasn’t as excited about his first day of school as I was about mine some thirty-four years ago (That was September 8, 1974. Except that kindergarten classes were half-days in most of the country back then.) Noah wasn’t unexcited, though, either. He gave us a bit of a time getting out of the house, but we were able to get him to school on time, without any public displays of tears. At least until after he waved to us as he went with his class into the school building. So brave of him. So proud we were.
What does all of this mean? Not much if we don’t remain as diligent as parents of our school-aged child as we were when Noah was a baby. Yesterday was just the first of roughly 2,300 school days between now and 2021, the year my son turns eighteen and hopefully goes on to college. Reading, writing, print and cursive, addition, subtraction, multiplication tables, fractions, decimals, and long division, basic science, an additional language, tying shoes, summer camps, family vacations, friends, puberty, dating, algebra, geometry, trig, bio and chemistry and possibly physics, sports, music, dance, essays contests and science fairs, school trips and school plays, PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences, and so many other things that I’ve forgetten or just haven’t thought about for a while are on our agenda for the next thirteen years. And we better make enough money and carve out enough time to make most–if not all–of this possible.
Still, I know all too well how life and bad parenting can sidetrack even the most focused and even-tempered of kids. I got off to a great start in kindergarten and in first grade, only to get completely sidetracked in second grade by my mother and father’s divorce, arguments, drunken rages, and my mother’s mystery kidney illness. It took a year and a half for me to make the adjustment. Only to be sidetracked a few years later by the Hebrew-Israelite nightmare that my ex-stepfather and mother brought into our lives.
We have to try as hard as we can to give Noah every opportunity to grow up in a nurturing environment that enables him to grow up and to learn naturally. Period. In the event of any major changes in his life, short of our or my own demise, we must do everything we can to protect him or soften the blow. I want him to have every advantage and every wonderful experience that I didn’t get the chance to have or only imagined for myself over the next thirteen years.
Noah’s another motivation for Boy At The Window. He just doesn’t know it yet. I hope to have it published before he finishes grade school.