A week ago as we ate a lazy vacation breakfast at the cottage kitchen table, I casually mentioned to the boys that they would be starting school, you know, in like a week. The response was less than spectacular. "Don't even tell me that, Mommy," said Phil, groaning and covering his head.
"Yes, Mommy, please don't bring that up again," Daniel said as he looked at me with a combination of terror and disdain.
"So, do you want me to just, like, wake you up next Wednesday and tell you it's time for school?"
"Yeah, that works."
"Yeah, let's do that."
Hmmmph. I looked at Paul with eyebrows raised and we sighed and gave a little shrug. We were a little bummed that our kids weren't more excited for school, but who could blame them after a carefree and unstructured summer of Legos and bare feet and silly old fashioned fun? Phil had already told me he was nervous and I know Daniel is not the hugest fan of all of the work that happens once the yellow bus drops you off, and I have to admit I really, really miss the kids when they are gone. Something about having them all here, even when they are completely wild and crazy, just makes me feel complete. Since I had mixed emotions, too, I decided not to mention too much about it (Denial!! My favorite! It's not just a river in Africa! It's a real place! Where I live!) but Monday was open house night which required us to actually GO to the school and visit their classroom.
But that's when the magic happened. I could feel the energy shift as we pulled into the parking lot Monday night. The boys were pressed against their respective windows and excitedly waving at friends they recognized. They were out of the van in a hot second and halfway across the parking lot before I reminded them that they needed to get their booties back over to the car and get their school supplies. Philip and Daniel floated into the school on a cloud despite the weight of their sacks o' crayons and glue sticks. We rounded the first corner and they had already run into a friend, and they could barely be pulled away. They waved and hugged and high-fived and half ran down the hall to their room, and when they walked in the door it only got better. They bypassed their new teacher to go straight to their desks where the excited shouting began. "LOOK! Josh is at my table!!"
"Look there's Laureli! And Jackson! And Jacob."
"Oh, Ben is going to be here, and Zach, and Tessa!"
They were going around the room as fast as their little feet could take them reading the nametags on the desks. By the time they finally got around to saying hello to their new teacher, there was a complete transformation of the boys from the week before. They were, dare I say it, excited??!?!! In the van on the way home, Daniel said, "Mommy, how many more days until I get to go to school? I can't WAIT to see my friends."
"All of our friends we know are in our class! Like, 90% of them! I didn't know they would all be here!" Phil chimed in.
Two little soon-to-be second graders could barely fall asleep last night and were giddy over their breakfast cereal planning their first day. The big question had been answered. They would have a friend. I didn't even realize that was the question until I saw the shift in their perspective, but once I did I totally got it! How many times in my life have I had that feeling, too? How many times has my stomach done flip-flops in the car, or have I hesitated at the door, or walked into a room with butterflies and scanned it for a friendly place to sit? How many of us just want to know we'll have a friend when we get there? I had to take advantage of this moment of revelation.
"Boys," I said, as they shoved cereal and bananas in their faces. "I want you to do me a favor today. I know you are really excited to go to school and see your friends, but today I want you to look for someone who may not have a friend and make them feel welcome, Okay?"
They barely looked up from their conversation, and I didn't want them to miss the point. SOOOOO, I kept on going in my droning on mom-style.
"You know how excited you are to go to school today? And see your friends? Well, there are some kiddos who are not excited to go to school today. They might even be crying this morning. They don't know if they will have a friend or not because New Britton is a new place for them. I want you to be that friendly person."
At this point I had their attention. They looked a little mystified that someone might be crying before school, so I told them, "You know, Mommy cried on the bus on the way to school her first day."
Now I REALLY had their attention. "Really, Mommy??" said Phil. "How old were you??"
"Um, I was in high school"
"WHATTTTT??? You cried and you were a TEENAGER!!!?"
"Yep, even high schoolers feel nervous if they don't know anyone. I was really scared to go to a new school and wondered if I would fit in or find any friends. I looked out the window of the bus and cried the whole way to school."
At this point kids minds = BLOWN, so Paul chimed in, too. "I was so nervous on my first day of high school, too. I was a new kid and I didn't know anyone! I mean, I didn't cry like Mommy but I was so, so nervous."
"So we really want you guys to be good friends! Think about those kids who are crying or scared to go to school. Look for someone who is lonely and reach out to them and make them feel welcome today."
"Okay, okay, Mommy," they chimed as they went right back to cereal and bananas and second grade boy recess planning.
They were thrilled to get on the bus. Thrilled to see their friends. Because isn't that what makes everything worthwhile? Friendly faces? People who know us and care about us? The big world is a much less scary place with a friendly smile to light the way. We'll see when they get off the bus in a few minutes if they found anyone to be that light to. I'll never forget the people who where that light to me when I was the new kid at school, which is probably why I am the first person to smother any new person in a group with my friendliness. . .sorry, new people. I can't help it. I still remember how much it meant to me. On the first day of school, I always say a little prayer for the new kids. The lonely kids. The scared kids. The missing their mama like crazy kids. The "Will I have a friend?" kids.
Dear God, please bring those sweet kiddos some friends today. Help us all to be a friend, and make the world a little less lonely together.