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August 2011
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Scenes from the beginning of school

“Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.” I was checking handwritten names against the list provided by Gleek’s teacher. The first spelling list of the year required all the students to learn to spell each other’s names correctly. “Oh. This Alysa has a y, not an i.”
“I put a y!” Gleek said.
I turned the paper so she could see it. “On the page it has an i.”
“How did that happen?” Gleek’s whole body filled with tension and she clenched her fists. “I wrote a y! I wrote a y!”
“I’m sorry.” I said then elected to move on to the next name rather than fighting over that one. Several other mistakes were found until on the final name Gleek snatched the paper from my hand and crumpled it into a ball.
“Gleek, do you want to write all of the names three times or just the ones you missed?”
Gleek clenched the wadded paper tighter and glared at me.
“You need to practice these names.”
“I want to take the test again!” I could see in her face the fury at her mistakes the driving need she had to get this right.
“It’s okay to make mistakes, Gleek. They just show us where we need to practice. You don’t have to be perfect.”
Gleek threw the crumpled ball into the trash and collapsed her head onto her arms on the table. Her rigidity dissolved into noisy tears.
New school, new teacher, new peers, new expectations, adjusting to a new biorythmic schedule, and a case of swimmers ear; Gleek was entitled to her break down. I picked her up. I barely can these days, she is getting so big. We snuggled for a bit, put drops in her ears, and I had her tell me about her day. The spelling list could wait.

***

“Do you have any homework?” I asked.
“Nope.” Link answered cheerfully. He was holding his brand new 3DS. He’d been saving up his money all summer long, carefully calculating how long it would take. The combination of an unexpected windfall and a price drop meant it was delivered yesterday. Throughout the afternoon I would discover Link hovering near me with his 3DS in hand. He needed help connecting it to WiFi. He wanted it linked to our Netflix account. He had the money to buy a game, but needed a credit card to purchase points. Each request was reasonable, and each gave me pause. My son is venturing out into a world where he can choose his own entertainment and carry it with him. Each connection empowers him to make choices. It is always fearful for parents to contemplate the choices that their children might make. I watched Link’s bright face and could feel the cheerful innocence roll off him in waves. So I gave him rules and handed his device back.
“This is the best day ever!” Link announced as he put his headphones back into his ears.

***

“I don’t know what to write!” Patch moaned. He was faced with the task of writing three sentences describing his hopes for the new year. The problem being that he had no concrete hopes for the year to come. In general this is good, because when Patch plans he plans very specifically and then is quite upset if the world deviates from what he planned. In his new school he is still learning how things work. He has not gotten far enough along in the process to plan for much.
“You mentioned earlier that you wished for printed homework sheets instead of binder paper. You could write that.”
Patch shakes his head, all too aware that expressing such a hope for a teacher to read is tantamount to a summoning spell. He did like the look of Gleek’s homework more than his own, but quickly shifted into wishing for less homework in general.
In the end he wrote three sentences. “I hope for lots of reading time. I hope for lots of computer time. I hope to make new friends.” It was a good balance for him. These are expressions of wish, not plans. He is not obligated by them and therefore they apply no stress to him. This is good, because adapting to homework after dinner instead of play is a sufficient overturn to upset any kid.

***

Kiki brought home a boy after the first day of school. He is a familiar boy who was greeted with delight by all the rest of my children. On the second day of school, we intended for her to have a quieter afternoon. Instead we spent 45 minutes standing in line to get her Learner’s Driving Permit renewed. She now has six more months before acquiring a license will also require a written test.
“I think getting a job would be good for me.” She announced cheerfully as we drove toward the DMV. “It would be good experience and might help me get into college.”
The school counselors spoke of college today, and of ACT testing. Kiki was wrapping her head around the requirements and possibilities.
“I agree that a job would be a good experience. I think you need to be more settled into this school year before we’re ready to consider taking on anything else. Last year was pretty hard.”
“I know.” Kiki said with a toss of her hair. “But this year my classes are set up better. I get to push harder in art and I like art.”
“Well, then you need to finish off both your electronic high school class and your driver’s license before taking on anything new.”
Kiki sighed and rolled her eyes, but I could tell it was pro forma. She is as ready for a calmer year as I am for her to have one.

***

I am tired. The day was trauma free, but it was long and I’m still far from caught up on all the work things which fell behind during WorldCon. However the progress is good and tomorrow looks like it will have less child errands in it.

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