By: Chris Warren.
The flurry of activity known as back to school is noticeable even by those with no direct connection to this yearly spectacle. It starts after Fourth of July when the stores roll out school supplies and the TV fills with commercials featuring good looking, outgoing kids jumping around telling us how awesome buy one-get one half off shoes are. Looking past the capitalism, we who don’t have kids going back to school can find many cute and heartwarming scenes.
My niece just started junior high/middle school and I happened to be over there visiting when she found out what her class schedule would be. The “Sixth Grade Chick Information Network” went full blast with dozens of texts and social media posts. Every sixth grade girl in the land, it seems, absolutely had to know who is in what class with whom, and when.
My sister-in-law sensed my lack of appreciation for this momentous back to school announcement. With the patience of a mother who knows she is talking to someone who has no clue how Sixth Grade Chick culture works (a presumption that was 100% accurate), she explained, “It’s all up and down Facebook and Instagram. It’s all they are talking about.” I politely smile and kind of see the point. Kind of.
Less than a month prior to The Great Sixth Grade Schedule Reveal of 2015 my niece was upset about leaving her old grade school and starting junior high. She wanted to keep her friends and the surroundings that made her feel so welcomed and comfortable. I tried to think of something meaningful to say that didn’t sound like a dorky old dude was saying it. “I think that after you’ve been in your new school for two, maybe three days, you’re going to think it’s the greatest place ever.” Ok. That wasn’t too dorky old dude-ish.
If I want to maintain my status as the Cool Uncle, I have to keep it real, and not in an dorky old dude sort of way. Knowing how to respond to texts with the appropriate emojis and occasionally buying the kid some pizza bumps up my Cool Uncle rating, too. By the way, my prediction was wrong, in reverse. She thought her new school was the greatest place ever on the very first day.
My “adopted nephew” James, who I have previously written about in detail on this blog, is beginning his freshman year in college. He ultimately wants to go to medical school and become a doctor; I honestly think he has the mettle to pull it off. It was very flattering when he and his older sister made a long trip just to hang out with me for an afternoon.
We had a great time shooting guns at a local range (an outing I had regularly taken them on going back many years) followed by a pizza stop. They smiled and told me about their hopes and dreams, and more importantly, their plans to achieve them. I felt respected; they felt like they were being taken seriously. It was evident that we all were enjoying the good vibe.
As the afternoon was winding down and the kids were getting ready to leave, I had one simple request: I wanted to hear from them every now and then, maybe twice a month or so. A phone call would be awesome. An email would be nice. A text message would be perfectly acceptable. They agreed to my request, but I know how aloof college kids can be so I wasn’t expecting much of a follow through. Now I feel a little guilty for not having more faith in them; since then they both kept their word and have been in regular contact with me. I hope they know how much it really makes my day when I hear from them.
Back to school is usually a happy albeit harried period for most families. In the moment they may not realize that for some students it is a major life change. Parents will wonder in complete disbelief how all the years clicked by so fast. Every increasing grade number, every turn of the semester, every first day back to school, places students a little closer to the moment when they will be the adults worrying, wishing, and wanting the best for the young people they care about so much. It’s a genuine blessing when a few of those young people are someone else’s kids.
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