We talked about what he carries around in that shiny blue backpack. Important stuff is in there, you know. Brand-new crayons. A box of tissues. A pencil box. An eraser shaped like a tractor. A messy happy face, drawn on a scrap of paper by a younger sibling. And two Matchbox cars.
This little guy has broadened his horizons. He not only belongs at home, his name is on a classroom chalkboard. He is surrounded by new faces. And his teacher, the one with a whispery voice, is awesome! She gives away treats. But only to the kids who keep their ears turned on all day.
By now, this first-grader has checked out the playground, from the monkey bars to the swing set. He has participated in foot races, beginning at the sidewalk and ending at the giant slide.
And by the way, arguments erupt sometimes when identifying the true winner of those races. But this little guy is learning to live in kindness. Even when he disagrees with peers, this pupil is internalizing the rules of life. He is learning how to treat others. Don’t hit. Don’t do any name calling. Don’t touch what doesn’t belong to you. Don’t say anything that is not true. Don’t hurt others on purpose.
Some things in the world constantly change shape and color and reason. But thank goodness some life moments remain unchanged. First grade, for this little boy with freckles on his nose, is similar to what his parents experienced at his age. And what his grandparents remember, too.
In nearly every first-grade classroom, there’s a kid who eats glue. There’s also a brat grabbing and breaking other kids’ new pencils. And at least one kid enjoys an awesome lunch from home while her peers smother school-issued, sweaty red hot dogs with ketchup in the school cafeteria. There’s always a girl who trimmed her bangs – near the scalp. And let’s not forget the kids who pee their pants or puke or cry without good reason.
In kindergarten and first grade, too, children learn the truest meaning of how to simply pick other people to be in their lives. They couldn’t care less about designer clothes and high-dollar tennis shoes. Who cares where you live or how big your house is. Does your house feel like a smile when people visit? That’s what makes a house special. Not your address.
When children are young, it’s perfectly OK if friends have only one parent. It’s OK if parents are different colors. It’s perfectly fine if other students have two moms or two dads. Children notice each other for their gifts. Chloe dribbles a basketball really well. Johnny can whistle. Carrie and Meg sat through the entire recess while the school nurse doctored your skinned-up knees. Now that’s friendship. And Bobby shares the extra tangerine in his lunch bag.
Children see the world in such an amazing, authentic way. Their innocent hearts happily fall in love with whatever makes them happy. They don’t label. They don’t place unfair expectations on others. They simply skip and hop and giggle in the moment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if adults returned to first grade ... to learn the lessons we forgot?
A former Southsider and an award-winning journalist and humor writer, Sherri Coner resides in southwest Florida. To learn about her books for women and to join her on Facebook, visit www.sherriconer.com. She also speaks to women’s groups. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.