I distinctly remember being on the school playground one day as a six or seven year old playing 'house.' One particular girl, named Nicola, wanted to join in our game. I guess I was the (self-appointed?) boss of the game, and so it became my decision whether or not Nicola could join in. I can remember exactly where I was standing on the Cheam Park Farm Infants School playground as I looked at Nicola, the standard green snot dripping from her nose, as she waited for my reply to her request to play with us.
I was (overall) a nice girl. I knew that telling her not to play with us would be mean, and so despite her runny nose and other playground infractions I told her she could play with us.
Except I put it this way, "You can play with us. But you have to be the dog." Desperate to belong, Nicola spent the next fifteen minutes crawling around the asphalt playground on her hands and bare knees (we wore skirts to school) at the mercy of me, who in addition to playing the role of mother, was a mother who didn't particularly like dogs... (Told you I've never been much of an animal lover!)
I do not tell that memory in an attempt to be funny, but to illustrate why since the day before Megan started Kindergarten in 2004 I have given the same Family Home Evening Lesson every single year the day before school starts. This was our eighth year. I use the exact same paper dolls, I tell the exact same stories, and with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat every year, I impart the exact same message:
Love one another.
The paper dolls are four different children holding hands. One has no arm, one has different color skin from ours, one has no hair, and one wears glasses. None of the paper dolls show snot dripping from their nose, but each year, I pray my children get the message.
Love one another.
One of my fondest memories will always be my memory of Megan, as she walked into the elementary school on her first day of Kindergarten in August of 2004. Just shy of six years old, she turned around to me as she waved goodbye and said, "Don't worry Mom, if there is a kid in a wheelchair in my class, I'll be nice to them."
A new school year is upon us.
Each year, we choose a one-word reminder that hangs on our fridge. Each child writes a letter to 'own' the word that defines the principle we have chosen for the school year.
For the last few years in a row the word has been, "OBEY". It seems each year Mike deems the principle 'not quite mastered' among our children and last year it was our 2010-11 word yet again.
Though our children are certainly not proficient in obedience, they each receive very good reviews from their teachers in regards to being obedient at school and so this year we decided a new word would be appropriate. (We have separate family rules to internalize other principles, but this 'one word' is for focus at school.)
This year after our paper doll lesson, we moved onto our one-word-for-the-school-year discussion. I was thrilled with this year's choice.
It is for all the paper doll realities, the Nicola's, and the children like yours and like mine that all deserve to feel accepted and loved on the playground and in the classroom.
Here's to another school year.