Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts on Kindergarten

From the moment Tyler was born, Ryan and I have done everything possible to keep him safe. As a tiny, 5 pound newborn, he was always buckled snuggly in his car seat, with no more than one finger width of space between his shoulders and the two strategically placed straps that covered them. His food was cut into microscopic pieces, each and every outlet was plugged and small objects were off the floor and out of his reach.  At three years old, Tyler may not have known his middle name but he knew exactly how many smoke detectors we had in our house and he could recite a detailed escape plan in the event of a fire. 

In the summer, one of us is constantly reminding Tyler that he needs to wear his helmet and in the winter, his hat and mittens. There is a neon yellow sign at the end of our cul-de-sac warning incoming cars of children at play. The tag inside Tyler’s backpack lists our contact information in the event that he gets lost and if he doesn’t happen to be carrying it? He can recite his name, phone number and a good portion of his address. He looks both ways for cars and we remind him often to wash his hands before eating. Each fall we bribe him with a toy in exchange for a flu shot.  

In May, Tyler turned 5. Ryan and I had just 4 short months to decide if we would be sending our little boy to Kindergarten. We had many conversations about bullying, bus rides and our child’s attention span. We wondered if Tyler would make friends easily, listen attentively and make the right choices, even if his best buddies made the wrong ones. We weighed the pros and cons and waffled back and forth but ultimately, we decided that he simply wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready to board the big yellow bus, to spend 8 hours a day in a classroom or to have some kid burst his bubble by telling him pink was a “girl” color.

During all of those hours spent discussing kindergarten, our expectations and concerns, there was one thing that NEVER crossed my mind: my child’s wellbeing in the classroom. I certainly thought about how difficult it would be to drop Tyler off that first day and whether or not he would be able to navigate the bus in the days thereafter, but I never, ever considered that he wouldn’t be safe after he arrived. Ryan and I have spent a great deal of time talking with Tyler about fires, tornadoes and strangers, but I was unaware that my five year old needed to know how to escape a bullet. The unthinkable tragedy in Connecticut has changed all of that. The loss of all of those little ones who look far too much like our own child has shaken our foundation and put a fear within us that we didn’t know existed. I cannot even begin to understand how the parents of those innocent children feel and I selfishly pray that I never have to. Nobody should have to. 

Next September, Ryan and I will be faced with the Kindergarten dilemma once again. Nine months will have passed, but the Connecticut tragedy and the fears that stem from it will undoubtedly be at the forefront of our thoughts. Despite the uncertainties, we will hug our little boy tightly and then step back and watch as he hops aboard the school bus; eyes glistening with anticipation and a tummy filled with nervous butterflies. 

The heartbreaking truth is that malevolence will always exist in our world. Tragedies of all types will continue to occur and we will struggle to comprehend the senselessness of it all. In spite of all of that, I refuse to let the malice outshine the immense amount of good. People who are honest, caring and selfless; those who give without expectations and are kind to their core. People, just like those kindergarten teachers who, without a second thought, put the lives of their students before their own. 

Tyler will be going to kindergarten next year. He will have the opportunity to spend his days learning to read, write and to raise his hand before he speaks. He will make new friends, learn the rules of the playground and overcome those butterflies. Above all of that, my son will undoubtedly have the opportunity to be surrounded by good people…an opportunity that I want nothing more than for him to experience. 

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