WARNING: The word ‘big’ is used many times in this article!
It is the beginning of 2018 and my eldest is going to ‘big’ school. In South Africa, ‘big’ school, for all practical purposes, starts with Grade 0. In the year you turn 6, you go to Grade 0, preferably to the same school you are going to in Grade 1, otherwise you might not be assured a place in Grade 1. So even though you are in Grade 0 and are still named a pre-schooler, you are on the same premises as the big school. Sugar coat it all you want, the school is big (as in biiiiiiiiig), the children are beyond many and it will never be the little playschool with 30 children in the whole school, ever again. More than often, you now find 30 children in one class. And the new skills you need to master by the end of Grade 0 definitely makes it ‘big’. For me, a better description is ‘massive’ school. For a 5-going-on-6-year-old, it most probably is ‘gigantic’ school.
I can trace the first day my son goes to Grade 0 six years back almost to the day he was born. Where have 6 years gone? I really don’t know, and I prefer not to write about it or think about it too much. Time and what has passed have a way of playing tricks on me. Also, I’ve come to know that to try and figure out the future is not only painful, but downright impossible, especially when it involves my kids. Also, it is not my territory. It is God’s. I do, however, want to write about our ‘now’, especially our experiences since starting ‘big’ school. We could in no way really prepare for this beautiful, intricate and complex season that is ‘big’ school. The surprises keep coming and we are learning to operate on a whole new level. And we are only at the beginning. I write about what I know now and learn every day.
So many discussions nowadays revolve around parents’ decisions regarding schools. Many prejudices exist. Some say it is necessary to prepare our kids for the big, big world out there. Others feel their kids are too young to be exposed to school environments and thus home school. For each family, different factors apply. It is not for me to judge or have opinions regarding others’ decisions. I can only share with others what I have come to know in my own unique experiences with my own unique children. The knowledge I gain through my experience as a parent is of more worth than a million opinions from others. Whatever the decision, it always requires immense courage from all persons, big and small, involved in the process.
We have prepared for this day as best we could with the little knowledge we have. Stationary is bought, lunchbox packed, prayers prayed, words of affirmation given by the hundreds! Many events and decisions have led to this day and, yes, it is a big deal. Especially for me, I feel. I am not in the business of downplaying these events, I’m a Mom! So many lessons in the past six years accumulate to this day. From today onwards, I will always wonder if he is doing okay in the midst of all the ‘bigness’. His world is only going to get bigger and bigger from now on. This is another step in slowly but surely letting him go, thus far, the biggest step by far.
And after today, this is what I want to document for my son, in the simplest language possible:
- My dearest son, I look at your big smile, standing in front of your new classroom, surrounded by such bigness, amidst people you’ve never met, most probably with a pounding heart, Lego-car in hand. You must know that you are the most courageous little boy that I know. It takes every ounce of courage you have in you to take this step.
- Your dad and I will always be proud of you, no matter what this big world says about you. Our love for you and acceptance of you, are not based on worldly standards.
- Today, you are the biggest and bravest that you have ever been in your six years, but, my son, one day, you will also look back and realize that today fails to compare to other big events in your life. I pray that you will always find the necessary perspective.
- May you always appreciate the privilege of being able to learn.
- Right now, I really do not know if you are too young to experience these things. But I know you, I know you are strong and brave. It is in situations where we have to let go of what has passed and move forward to, indeed, bigger things and places, that we truly come to know our inner strength.
- Courage is a big deal in this big world. To go to places where you have never been before is not easy. My boy, I will never take your courage for granted. Together, we will cultivate, nurture and preserve this quality. You, us, will indeed need lots of it going forward on this journey.
And this is all I need to know for now.