By Sandra Dempsey Post
Back to school rings loudly in the hearts and hopes of many parents and grandparents. Moms and Dads are very busy and involved working out all the logistics and complications that happen at the beginning of each academic year, and multiplied many times over this year because of the pandemic. Grandparents are more concerned about emotional aspects, hoping grandchildren are safe and happy. Obviously parents want that also, but Grandmas and Grandpas typically have more time to consider the extras, and grandparenting tends to maximize emotional issues and sentimentality.
As a child, falling asleep the night before the first day of school was exceedingly difficult for me. In grade school we didn’t know until the bell rang that first morning who our teacher would be, and sometimes it was an unfamiliar face. So many unknowns confronted us, but in comparison to today’s challenges, it wasn’t that complicated. But we were seeing them through the eyes of a child, and now I’m seeing them with decades of experience. New is often unsettling as there are many unknowns to consider: not getting lost, concern about where to sit in the cafeteria and with whom, what to do if someone says something unkind about your outfit or new shoes, what if you miss your Mom and start to cry, and multiple other what ifs. Looking back, it might seem simple, but as you’re living it, simple isn’t how it feels.
In either kindergarten or first grade, I remember being sent to some dark and to me frightening place in the school building because I didn’t remember the name rhythm sticks for our music class. How sitting in that secluded room was going to help my memory, I’m uncertain, but the experience was scary and I still remember it some 66 years later. My close friend, Joan, now deceased, was an incredibly smart woman who doubted her intelligence and talents because a teacher made her sit under the teacher’s desk as discipline. That embarrassment negatively impacted Joan’s life for decades. Neither of those incidents is meant to diminish the respect and appreciation dedicated teachers deserve, but simply to illustrate how tender a child’s self-esteem can be, and how exceedingly long those hurts can last.
Likely one of the most difficult things to teach children is that in spite of all their efforts and concern of many loved ones, feelings are going to get hurt. Sometimes it’s intentional, but certainly not always. The likelihood of hurt or disappointment does not stop with age, acquisitions, or good luck. Sadly, it’s part of being human. We cannot control other people’s actions, but we can work on our reactions. It’s hard work with no guarantees, but better than sulking, crying, or giving up. Sometimes, often much, much later in life, we learn certain details about the person or persons who hurt us. We realize those individuals, be they children or middle-aged adults, had suffered serious disappointments or neglects causing them to lash out at someone else. It doesn’t necessarily make the hurt go away, but it presents an entirely different perspective, making forgiveness more likely.
All of us, I’m certain, randomly have remembered comments we made as youngsters or teenagers and would like to retract them. Maybe it was an unkind remark or a thoughtless act, and sometimes we’re not aware at the moment how hurtful it might have been for the recipient. Our errors in judgment revisit our memories later in life, making us wonder, “why am I thinking about that now?” No one, no matter how conscientious their parental training, or how well educated or how good of a person they are, always gets it right. We learn from our mistakes, and while we try to minimize them, some will inevitably happen. A possible remedy is a kind and thoughtful apology, without regretfully lingering for days or years over the situation. Not everyone will accept an apology, but then that becomes their issue, and hopefully they eventually learn forgiveness can be healing.
To students and teachers returning to the classroom or to remote learning, and others beginning a new job, or coming to terms with the empty nest syndrome, and those determined to accomplish personal goals, or are in the role of spectator and encourager, be kind to yourselves. Change requires more than a few hours to adjust. Details might not be exactly as you want, but sometimes we grow into them, and other times we learn about acceptance. Be kind to someone struggling, helpful to those too embarrassed to ask for assistance, and always remember the Golden Rule. Nobody has life all figured out. They may act like they do, but eventually everyone faces days of reckoning. Life is very fluid and often challenging.
Count your blessings; determine if something can be improved; smile; and always find people and circumstances for which to give thanks. Enjoy the beauty of nature and cultivate a positive attitude. Life goes by very quickly. Not each day does, but don’t spend valuable time worrying or stressing. Cherish your blessings and find ways to share them. Believe in possibilities and peace, and never give up. And remember, life is full of changes. Learn to embrace them.
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