~ Anthony Douglas Williams
I can’t remember my first day of school. I can’t remember my first day in high school or even my first day at college. Although they were all days of significance in my life, I can’t recall the feelings of anticipation or dread or excitement or whatever I might have been experiencing on any one of those days. But I remember well, the afternoon our youngest child returned from his first day of kindergarten.
He was the final chapter in kindergarten round-up and small boxes of jumbo crayons, and safety scissors in our family. And he was ready! He used to walk to the corner with me and his siblings and watch with fascination as they boarded the big, yellow bus, dragging their bookbags, and jackets. As soon as the bus door admitted their entrance, his older brother and sisters were engulfed in the buzz of chatter and laughter that we could easily hear at curbside, and I could tell that my “baby” anticipated the day he would be old enough to join the fray.So, on the afternoon of his first day of school, I sat alone at the curb waiting for the return of the bus. As it came to rest at the corner and the neighborhood kids began to spill out, I was happy to see the faces of our four grade-schoolers, who began regurgitating the highlights of their day, talking over one another. But it was the youngest
I was most anxious to hear from. “Jay,” I said. “How was your day?”
Let me stop for just a moment and divulge that I was a stay-at-home mom. It was a privilege that I didn’t take for granted. However, my stay-at-home status afforded me the opportunity to be more than a little off-kilter, on this, the first day that my children left me at home alone. I accomplished a lot on day one, without kids. I’m sure there were fresh-baked cookies in my kitchen, and the laundry was caught up and the house was spotlessly dusted and vacuumed. I also know that I spent a little time in an emotional state of “what now?” and “maybe it’s time for another baby.” And I cried, boo-hoo, more than I should have. So, when I asked my kindergartener how his day went, I was not quite prepared for his answer. “You know what, mom? After a little while, I didn’t even miss you.” What???
I remember hearing soft gasps from the other kids. Clearly, they were old enough to know how to soften the blow, if asked such a question. Of course, they were all well past the age of missing me once they were on the bus and off to school. But here, my tenderhearted little boy just shared his experience as innocently as a five-year-old could.
So, I smiled a shaky smile and swallowed the lump in my throat that had drifted up from my heart, and blinked away the tears, to say, “That’s so great, Jay!”
This was the answer I needed to hear. Not the one I necessarily wanted to fall from the mouth of my child, but if I had done my job as a mother, then it was the right answer. Because it was my wish that our children would be curious and outgoing, adventurous and social. Seekers of knowledge and explorers of what’s beyond the boundaries. Even though I spent 26 years nurturing and protecting, I worked to balance the comforts of the “nest” with the freedom of flight. So, yes, my kindergartener’s honesty was a whip of reality that struck deep but felt right.
In the next week or so, the pilgrimage to education will begin again. Youngsters will trot off to preschool and grade school. The pre-teens to middle school. And the teenagers will shrug their way through the doors of high school as some of the excitement of learning wears thin. The lucky and the ambitious will take the leap to college when the time is right and the pathway to learning will become more cumbersome and less available, until adulthood is attained where lessons are learned by trial and error, and rarely come from a book.
There is an old quote that says, “Youth is wasted on the young.” The older I get, the more I agree. What toddler can appreciate the capacity and speed at which they absorb and retain information? They comprehend language before they can truly speak it. I don’t remember ever being thankful for the smooth, wrinkle-free complexion of my youth, yet now I slather protective cream on my cheeks and cover the wrinkles on my brow as if the face of a 20 year-old might magically emerge. And where I once dreaded the monotone message my high school English teacher poured forth, I’m now excited to seek the definition of words I don’t recognize.
My 11th grade geometry teacher once threw a chalkboard eraser at me, as I lay asleep at my desk. To his credit, he got my attention and I didn’t make the same mistake again, but angles and the distance between two points were not important concepts at 17. It wasn’t until my husband and I decided to build a tall house on a small plot of land, with a limited budget, that math came in very handy.
I’m not sure that youth is truly wasted on the young, but it may not be appreciated. And knowledge, well, it isn’t until we’re older and wiser that we are slapped with the realization that knowledge is power. Knowledge is liberation. And no one is going to pack up a satchel with the right books and a good lunch and kiss us goodbye at the bus stop. The knowledge we gain is the knowledge we seek all by ourselves. And when we get caught up in the adventure of something new, or the acquisition of fresh knowledge, it’s OK to forget the motivation that sent us seeking knowledge. Even if it’s our mother.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.