Back to school time! Ah, the joy I had every year as a kid: buying new crayons, a new trapper keeper, and something called a protractor for the new math class. That trip for school supplies was always one of my favorite shopping trips of the year. The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is an imprinted physical memory, always the same, year after year.
Shopping for doesn’t evoke quite the same feeling.
Although pencils, glue sticks, and a three ring binder seem to be eternal, my child does not go to school in the 1970s. Technology is a reality of her life, whereas when I was young, those of us who took programming as an elective were weird outliers. Who cared about computers?
Now, everyone does. My daughter’s hand me down iPod has more computer power than my whole school did when I was in her grade. Although her elementary school is not technology focused, other parents tell me that is very unusual. They say that her handwriting won’t matter by middle school, since almost all of the schools are “all netbook all the time.”
So many changes.
Our school year started strangely because of changes in our school district. In LWSD, the sixth grade has moved to middle school, and ninth grade has moved to high school. These changes were dramatic enough that the district decided to use Tuesday to ease the transition.
And there are changes in the physical structure of many of our schools too. I know parents with kids in multiple schools, all of which are under construction. And some of the kids are already in new buildings.
So many changes. But a new school year is . New routines, new teachers, new friends. In fact, it can seem like the only thing predictable about a new school year is its unpredictability. You never know what you’re walking into.
I am starting to find this helpful. I can’t use last year to predict this year. I can freak out about that, or I can use it to remind me that now is all that matters.
Investment professionals often say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” This is as true of our kids as it is of the stock market. A kid who struggled in reading last year can be flying through books this year. The best in the class at math can hit a wall when they switch from algebra to geometry.
And if their own past can’t predict their future, your past can’t either. My miserable outcast 7th grade experience predicts nothing about my socially adept child’s own middle school life. I was a wallflower. She’ll probably be a cheerleader. Or not.
Letting go of my expectations for the school year can help me let go of my expectations for her life. The more I can manage to be here now, the more I can see who she really is, instead of viewing her through a lens of memory and fear. And only in seeing who she actually is can I help her to become what she is meant to be.
Perhaps, someday, I will even be nostalgic for the smell of hand sanitizer.
Or maybe not. Guess I’m not predictable either.