Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What Mama Taught

Warning: This post is gonna ramble! I've got much on the mind today.

Yesterday, Jude received a letter from his first school teacher welcoming him to the class and informing him of the first day of school and Back to School Day (not night--it's Catholic School. They do Back to School Day immediately following Mass on Sunday. There's a hidden meaning in that letter, too. You better have your butt in a pew before you trek up there to drop off your nap mat. Ok, ok, maybe there's no hidden meaning. That's the curse of the literary personality who reads what's there and isn't there, even in her child's pre-school welcome letter. There ought to be professional help for this.) 

I like that the teacher, a Mrs. Burns (hadn't met her yet but like her already), addressed the letter to Jude. I like how she stated the information with nursery rhyme clarity. I like that she included a fun pirate theme in her letter. I like how when I handed Jude his letter, he immediately said, "I don't like school" yet smiled so big and proud for he could not help himself.

And I like how, God willing, Jude will be a part of this school on up through sixth grade where he'll then go on to its feeder school.

I have no doubt this particular school will prepare Jude for academic success. Will he be the smartest kid in class? Will he end up the valedictorian of his senior class? Honestly, I'm not that concerned about any of that. I mean, sure it would be nice to brag on him, but his daddy and I weren't first in our classes and look how we turned out! (Shit. We're in trouble.)

Of course, as I get ready to send my first born off to a place where he'll continue and eventually conclude his childhood, I can't help but feel somewhat emotional about it. While I believe his school will provide the setting that encourages him, nurtures him, inspires him, and challenges him, I know there are lessons he'll learn that won't get taught, and those are the lessons that will stick with him. I'm not scared of what he'll learn in school; I'm scared of what can't get taught in school.

For instance, bullies...

School bullies exist. Maybe my child won't be one. (Today, at the sitter's, I heard him telling his friend, "Now, remember, we don't hit with our toys, we play with them," so I hold a little hope.)

However, one never escapes bullies. Where school bullies exist, so too do workplace bullies and bullies of other kinds. Those feelings of inadequacy a child may feel at school, well, those feelings will come back later in adulthood, and you can bet that someone will be there to remind you of them every chance he/she gets.

But hopefully, if I've done my job right, Jude will learn to not let the jerks get to him and to keep on keeping on.


I have to admit, sending my child to a private school freaks me out considering that Jude will not have the best of everything.  I don't have the financial means to provide for him all the latest gadgets and wingdings. If he wants that stuff badly, hell, he's getting a Catholic school education that could possibly prepare him for some career that pays better than a teacher's. (Although, I wouldn't oppose him going into education so long as his heart is in it.) Even though I can't get him the latest and greatest of everything and don't really want to, I know he'll see kids in his class with all the cool loot, and he might wonder, "Why can't that be me?" And then I'll go on to tell him about how the stuff doesn't define him, and it's all about his good character. He may even believe that eventually one grows out of wanting to have stuff until he realizes in his thirties that people still try to shove their fancy cars, name brand bags (well, I guess a boy wouldn't notice a bag, at least not a boy walking around with half of Jeffrey Brown's DNA), and other flashy stuff in everyone's faces.

But hopefully if I've done my job right, Jude will just view those people as slightly pathetic, maybe likable still, but pathetic all the same.


I've never been one of those "who you know" types. I know a lot of people, some of them successful. However, I don't run around any particular social circles. People don't envy me, don't really notice me even. There's actually this formal event the school hosts in December that I'm already freaking out about because I'VE NEVER BEEN TO SOMETHING LIKE THAT BEFORE! To top it off, I'll have to go in a formal dress and totally live out of my comfort zone. Seriously, I love new clothes, but formals are foreign territory for me. I never pick the right one. This upcoming event has me remembering the jr. high dance where I wore this skirt and sweater combo while all the other girls wore these sparkly puffy creations. Someone even told me, "You look like a teacher." Ouch! So, to say I'm a tad socially awkward is an understatement, and I'm afraid I may have passed that trait on to Jude. However, some kid's going to like mine because some kid liked me well enough back in the day even though I've worn the wrong thing a time or two. Jude may not become popular, but he's funny enough that some folks will like him. I'm proof of that. However, he may want to hang up the idea of becoming a status symbol. Between Jeffrey's slight geekiness and my superpower of clamming up when someone new and cool tries to speak to me, that kid's screwed.

But hopefully if I've done my job right, Jude will learn to love who he is, love and accept the friends he has, and won't even care or notice that someone cool is speaking to him.

Bullies, materialism, and status are things Jude will witness in school, but he won't really learn from them until he is older. School will teach him many things, but only I can teach him how to lessen the hold bullies, materialism, and status can have on him. None of these things ever go away, but how we handle them is within our control. That's what my Mama showed me, and that's what I'll pass on to my children.

In a few weeks, I will watch my son get out of the car and walk through the doors of the place where he will begin his academic future. I will cry, hopefully one of those pretty, sweet cries, but I may as well gear up for the snot slingin'. Jeffrey will do his thing where he becomes silent and won't look at anyone (I guess I'll drive that day). At the end of the day, we'll hug Jude tight and ask him what all he did and he'll respond in classic Jude fashion, "Nothing" leaving us to guess. And thus our new normal will begin.