Thursday, January 23, 2014


There hasn't been any more snow, but the persistence of single-digit temperatures during the morning hours when kids would normally be expected to go outside and stand on a corner waiting for a bus or walk their usual footpath to school led the city we live in to close school again today. Apparently, for the older kids, midterms have been cancelled altogether. I will await another robocall/e-mail combo tonight concerning the school status for tomorrow, but so far the forecast looks about the same, so the outcome may be as well.

And then it will be the weekend, and then next Monday and Tuesday the schools were supposed to be closed for teacher workshops anyway. So it may very well end up that the little guy goes from the afternoon of the 17th to the morning of the 29th without setting foot in school. Which, clearly, is not a huge deal in terms of academic advancement. Missing a week of kindergarten is not going to put him behind the curve in any appreciable way. But it does inspire a little trepidation in me, I admit.

The thing is, the little guy does not need five days a week of academic instruction in order to keep from falling behind in grade-level-or-above knowledge and skills. He can do some arithmetic (including a fair amount in his head), he can read some (probably more than he usually admits, because he's inherited some perfectionism on both sides and tends to avoid medium-difficult words and the inherent risk of getting them wrong), and in general his brain is a little sponge for facts historical, scientific, &c. But he lacks focus, and self-control, and discipline, and while as recently as a couple of years ago I would have done some hearty scoffing over the idea of really caring whether or not a five-year-old could be described as disciplined, now that I have a child of my own in school I can see how the habits which will rule his entire future academic career are forming here in the present, and it's not the worst over-parenting in the world to take them seriously.

So the little guy got a break from the structure of kindergarten for a couple weeks around the holidays, and that struck me as a good thing, just to give him some time to rest and recover from the demands of school, such as they are (minor, but a new adjustment for him). After that, I was hoping that he would continue to build on various little victories and successful advancements carrying him into the back half of the school year. But after two weeks of rebuilding momentum, he's now back in a protracted spell of downtime mode as described above. Which strikes me as a shame.

But not, of course, a world-ending tragedy. And not something that can't be recovered from. It may in retrospect be a blip, a non-event, a weird bit of weather-themed personal trivia that the little guy barely remembers from early childhood. Or it may be a setback, steadily undoing the work that had previously been done, and we (little guy, me and my wife, and the little guy's teachers) may find ourselves starting over again from someplace we thought we'd already gotten past. I'm sure we can do so, but having kids often means just wanting so very badly to not have to do so. My wife and I both understand and accept (and commiserate about) the facts: that growing up is hard, doing well in school requires work, adversity builds character, and every other truism along those lines. But that doesn't mean we still don't wish that everything could just be super-easy and wonderful for all our children, all the time.

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