August 23, 2012

School Days: The Bitter and the Sweet

My yearly calendar tends to lean more toward the school year, from August through May, than it does starting in January. I suppose this is because school has been a part of my life since I began kindergarten, and has continued through the graduation of my own children. This year, my youngest son began middle school, and it's arrived with mixed feelings. Because of the age gap between him and his college-aged siblings, he is my one and only remaining link to the smells of pencil shavings, fresh notebook paper and stale milk. 

It's been a blessing and pleasure to watch my children grow up. Their day to day routine of enduring peers, puberty and homework remind me of those times when I was just an awkward duckling trying to find my own place in the world. 

This year, I felt strongly that I needed to drive my new middle school student rather than put him on a bus. This wasn't an easy decision for me. I am a dyed in the wool insomniac and don't do mornings any better than Garfield. There didn't seem to be much choice, though, after learning about the pornography passed around the bus on cell phones, not to mention the bullying and the language that seems to spew out of younger and younger mouths these days. Middle school has been an eye opener in the last few weeks.

Example? I wasn't aware that drugs were a problem in almost every middle school today. Color me ignorant. I think I might have seen a bag of pot one time in my entire high school experience, and that was on the bus as a matter of fact. Recently I learned that my son's well-rated middle school had an arrest last year for drug possession. A sixth grader. Selling to another Honor Roll sixth grader. Wow. How exactly does an eleven-year-old develop an interest and aptitude for drug dealing?

Now I'm not going to rant about who's raising these children. I know it can happen to anyone. But despite understanding that the world is an ever more dangerous and discouraging place, I can't accept that the memories my son will have will include some very adult dilemmas. It's a crying shame, and I weep for him, that his autumn days can't be filled with the things that should stand out most: new teachers and new tennis shoes, leaf piles and pumpkin carving... The first time he used deodorant. The last time he let his momma kiss him goodnight.

~Danielle Thorne

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