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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Days of School Blues…

Child crying...
It’s not easy watching your 3-year-old son break down hysterically in tears; the kind of tears that come from deep within his soul and is accompanied by a look of desperation, a “why are you doing this?” in his eye. It’s even harder when he is looking to you to comfort him from his grief and you have to ignore his pleas; only adding to his pain and anguish.

This has been a rough beginning of the school year for my little buddy, Nico. He likes it when I call him that, only lately he doesn’t want to be my little buddy (If this is how you treat friends…).

He’s attending school for the first time and hasn’t taken to it very well.

Fortunately, his sisters were the opposite. My wife shed a few tears when she dropped off our older daughter in school for the first time and my daughter didn’t even flinch. She wanted to go to school and play with new friends. She was only 2 and ½-years-old at the time and never once cried.

Our second daughter was almost 4-years-old when she attended school for the first time, which makes a huge difference developmentally.  She too couldn’t wait to go to school and never cried either.

But for Nico, it’s been a struggle. He never pined about going to school and was quite happy going to my parents’ house every day. It was even more of a treat during the summer when his sisters went with him to Abuelo and Abuela’s house.

It’s funny; we were talking to our Pastor after Mass on Sunday and he asked about Nico (who many of the regular morning Mass goers have gotten used to seeing frequently). We told him that Nico was having trouble adjusting in his first week of school. Our Pastor is a teacher and has studied early childhood development. “Don’t worry,” he told us, “Most boys are much more attached to mommy and daddy than girls. He’ll grow out of it… probably by the time he graduates from high school.” (Great, something to hang our hat on)

His first day of school was great. My wife, our younger daughter and I dropped him off. We took pictures. He was excited with all the commotion of parents, new toys and kids in his class. When we left him, he was happy camper.  

But, it went downhill from there.

On his second day of school, as we approached his classroom (just the two of us), he started saying, “Papi, tu no te vas. Tu no te vas!” (or “Daddy, you’re not leaving, you’re not leaving!”). He latched onto my leg as I signed in.  As I started prodding him towards his table and seat, he started to push against me (kind of like the illustrations of the Bible story of Samson pushing down the temple pillars, except with shorter hair). He was trying to push me towards the door and began to cry.  But, it wasn’t a normal, “I just got hit with something and it hurts!” It was a penetrating wail from deep within, “Papi, tu no te vas. Tu no te vas!” The assistant teacher immediately grabbed him away from me and wrapped her arms around him, as she carried him. He attempted to break free from her and as he continued wailing.

I was a bit caught offguard by his reaction and tried to comfort him by telling him it was going to be alright but the teacher asked me to leave by saying, “it would be better if you left as soon as possible.” (Ok lady, I get the picture!)

So I left but could hear him screaming from afar.

The rest of that first week did not get any better. Before we would get to school, he already started, “Papi, tu no te vas. Tu no te vas” (It was not a suggestion. It was a demand; an order). As we approached his classroom (with me carrying him to make sure he did not start to run away), he would wrap himself around my neck. As I placed him down, he would start crying and pushing me out (ala Samson), and again the assistant teacher would take him away and I would continue to hear his screams as I turned the corner down the hall.

This week, the situation has improved slightly.

On Monday, I was able to distract him with a couple of photos he had to bring to school of himself and of our family. I handed him the photos, as I put him down, and told him to give them to his teacher. As he went to hand them to her, I left.  Silence... good.

Tuesday, he was still telling me not to leave as we approached the school and cried a little bit saying he wanted to go to his grandparents’ house but as I placed him down inside his class, he reluctantly resigned himself to the inevitable and, with droopy shoulders, walked towards his teacher (Sort of like “I really don’t want to be here but, what choice do I have? My Dad will just leave me anyway”).

As I describe this, a thought comes to mind. Often people who are going through a difficult time (an illness, a divorce, a loss of a business or job, a death in the family), may question God the Father; like a child that thinks his father doesn’t care or is abandoning him at school. Often we too kick, scream and wail from the depths of our soul asking, "Why God?"  “Why are you putting me through this?” We don't and can't understand why we have to go through the hardship.

Yet, the hardships are what make us stronger, help us grow and may be the only time we turn to God on our knees with total abandon.  I recall a saying that goes, "When we got nowhere else to turn, we turn to God."  It's in overcoming these difficult times, that we appreciate our blessings most and gain humility, obedience and endurance.

Without a doubt, like all children who go through these first days of school blues, my son will grow out of it and, like we who overcome obstacles in life, will come out stronger in the process.  Hopefully, with God's help, and for my sake, it will be very soon...

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