|Teach Him Gently|
Years ago, when my son, Jim, started Kindergarten, I made it back to the car, after depositing him in his new classroom, before the tears started to flow. When I got home, I called my mother and sobbed into the phone, "He's just a baby and I won't be there if he needs me." Because she was my opposite in personality and not the emotional person I am, I was certain she would tell me what I needed to hear, like, for goodness sakes, get a grip. But, instead, she cried, too. So much for being stalwart where a child's first day of school is concerned. We cried together for several minutes, then we hung up and both cried some more.
When I picked up my son that afternoon, I put make-up over the red blotches under my eyes and rehearsed the explanation of why he had to go back the next day, even though it had been an unhappy experience, and how it would get much better as time went on. When he climbed into the car, his first words were, "That was fun!! Can I come back tomorrow?"
Tomorrow will be my 3 year old granddaughter Sarah's first day of pre-school. That funny little knot's returned to the pit of my stomach and I recall it's just like the one I had the night before Jim started Kindergarten. And, I keep thinking to myself that Sarah really is just a baby and she's never been left with strangers before...and wishing that my mother was still here, so we could have a good cry together tomorrow morning. And, also, hoping that when Sarah's mom brings her over tomorrow afternoon, her first words to me will be, "That was fun! And I get to go back tomorrow!"
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|The following is from a Clarence Doucet column that appeared in The Times-Picayune newspaper many years ago. I clipped it and saved it because it was so touching. I haven't looked at it in years, but Sarah's first day of preschool triggered its memory for me and I went in search of it and, remarkably (considering my lack of organization), I found it.
It's still touching.
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|Son, Jim, and friend, 1st day of Kindergarten|
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| Teach him gently - if you can.
My young son is just starting school. It will be strange and new for awhile, and I wish you would sort of treat him gently. Up to now, he's been our little boy.
He's been boss of the backyard. His mother has always been around to repair his wounds, and his father's always been handy to soothe his feelings. But now things will be different.
He walked down the front steps, waved his hand goodbye and started on the great adventure - an adventure that will probably include wars, tragedy and sorrow.
To live his life in the world will require faith and love and courage, so, world, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know. Teach him...but, gently, if you can.
He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just; that all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel, there is a hero. Teach him this: for every enemy, there is a friend.
It will take time, world, I know, but teach him, if you can, that a nickel earned is of far more value than a dollar found. Teach him to learn to lose - and to enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy, if you can, and teach him the secret of quiet laughter.
Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to defeat. Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books. But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside.
In school, world, teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with gentle people; tough with tough people.
Try to give him the strength not to follow the crowd just because everyone else is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men - but teach him to filter all he hears through a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob - and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right. Treat him gently, world, but don't coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
Teach him, if you can, to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success.
Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidder, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.
Give him the courage to be impatient - let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.
It's a big order, world, but see what you can do. He's such a fine little fellow, my son.
According to Mr. Doucet, the author of this piece was unknown.
|Above, granddaughter, Sarah, 4th birthday; directly below, Sarah and her Pre-School teacher; bottom photo, Sarah, 6 years old, April, 2010, in front of St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square.|