My son graduated from high school yesterday. We couldn’t watch him celebrate the completion of his schooling without recalling the day it all started all those years ago.
He was ready and excited. He had been to “School Bus 101” to get comfortable with the big yellow bus, so he waited for it impatiently on that first day of kindergarten. When it came, he bounded confidently up the steps and waved at us through the window. That was reassuring to us parents, but we weren’t ready to let him go just yet. We followed behind the bus, and when it arrived at the school, we lurked in the bushes to watch. Our son ran off the bus excitedly, and then he saw and heard all the kids that had already arrived in the playground. They were loud, and running all around, and there were a lot of them. Our son stopped dead.
“Uh, oh,” I said.
The lump in our throats and in the pit of our stomach grew as we watched him deal fearfully with his new situation. In “Parent Time,” a millennium or two passed before a teacher came to take his hand. In “Real Time” it was probably about a minute. Our son held the teacher’s hand until the bell rang and they went into the school.
When he got home at the end of the day, we asked him, “What did you think of school?”
“Too much kids,” he said.
The phrase became a recurring theme as he grew older. When he withdrew from circumstances where there was a lot of noise or too many people, my husband and I would look at each other knowingly and say, “Too much kids.”
By the time he got to high school, that began to change. He engaged more often with more people. A few weeks ago he was completely at ease at the microphone in front of much kids as the master of ceremonies at the athletic awards banquet. He received many awards for his participation, including athlete of the year. Last night at the ceremony he and a friend received awards for organizing extra-curricular activities for much kids.
After the ceremony, the crowd emerged into a central hall. Hundreds of people crowded together into a too-small space. My son and his friends moved with ease in the pack of people. My husband and I were the ones who said, “Too much kids.”
It was gratifying to see how our son had left fears behind.
He wasn’t the only one I noticed though. When my son was a pre-schooler I spent a couple of years as a pre-school playgroup leader. Some of the kids I supported in their potty-training years graduated last night too. One girl, who clung to the pre-school leaders and never uttered a word, is now going into pre-med. Another boy, who cried for at least a half-hour every time his mother left, waved to the crowd as he bounded across the stage. One boy, who hid under a table when he got overwhelmed, plans to be an engineer. It was gratifying to see them leave behind the fears they used to have and unfold into confident people ready to take on the world.
Graduations mark the end of stages of life, but they also initiate new challenges. Every new challenge brings with it new and different things to be afraid of. All the people who walked across the stage last night will have to keep overcoming new and different fears.
It’s a life-long process, isn’t it? Graduations are a good reminder that all of us have to keep overcoming and unfolding.
I wonder, what fears keep me holding a teacher’s hand? What fears make you hide under a table?