It’s that time of year again. School supplies overflow colorful backbacks, tennis shoes sparkle with unworn treads, and back-to-school paperwork has arrived in the mail. There’s an unmistakable aura that surrounds us now: a mixture of excitement, anticipation, maybe even a little apprehension for what the coming school year may bring.
Packing your child’s backpack for the elusive first day of school can almost be considered an Olympic sport, challenging the mental and physical capacity of any adult. How many times have you tried to get all those pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue to fit in that tiny pencil case that never quite closes all the way? Do you find yourself stuffing every zippered pocket and space with small items just to make room for the binders, notebooks, and folders that always seem larger than the backpack itself? Inevitably, I end up sending my children to school with so much stuff you would think I had abandoned them to the streets with all their possessions in hand. Backpack, lunchbox, and at least two grocery bags with extranious items like tissues, ziploc bags and multiple containers of hand sanitizer, my children can barely board the bus without a near fatal collision. There’s just so much STUFF!
This morning, as I was reading my friends’ Facebook posts, one in particular grabbed my attention. One of my friends was describing how her son took time to get to know another child who was already pushed to the outside fringe of social acceptance the very first week of school. (You can read her post here.) We’ve all been there, at one time or another. Maybe you were the popular kid, maybe you were the outcast, maybe you were somewhere in the middle. No matter what invisible label you carried, you’ve been there. You’ve seen it happen either as a participant or observer. LUNCH TIME. RECESS. GYM CLASS. Times of a school day meant for having fun, relaxing with friends, enjoying just being a kid. Unfortunately for many children, this is not the case. Do you remember when you had to find somewhere to sit at lunch (desperately seeking out a familiar face so you wouldn’t be forced to sit at the “other” table?) Do you remember that sinking in the gut feeling when you realized all seats were taken? Oh, how my heart just breaks thinking about children having to face this challenge on a daily basis at school! In the lower grades, some teachers recognize this dilemma and try to help out with assigned seats or creating a buddy system (with or without a child’s knowledge.) But at the middle and high school level? Folks, it’s just a free for all. Good luck with that.
As I think back to all the STUFF I packed in my children’s backpacks for the first day of school, in which zippered pocket did I pack compassion? Empathy? Confidence? Aren’t these supplies just as important as the objects they use to read and write? What will my children do when they see another child being left out? Do they have enough inner strength to go against the crowd to be kind to others? We are all different, after all. Some of our differences are more obvious, but we are ALL different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Will my children have enough maturity to recognize this and be accepting of all their classmates?
Yes, I do believe I need to go through one final backpack check before loading my children on the bus this year. It’s never too late to stock up on kindness traits in our children, especially at the start of a new school year. Best of all, those school supplies are FREE! I look forward to hearing stories from my kids on how THEY blessed someone else with kindness and compassion. Here’s to a new school year! 🙂