Oh those memories...the good, the bad and the ugly memories......of that first day of school.
I'm not sure where my terror of the first day of school began. I honestly can't remember, but I do know it was because I was terrified about not being able to find my homeroom class. I was also terrified of wandering into the wrong class and being laughed at. Kids laugh at other kids for any and all reasons and don't even consider whether feelings are hurt or the victim is embarrassed. As an individual who is lacking in social skills, fear around others is my middle name and it seems that it always has been.
Preparations for returning to school were exciting. It was the usual things, some new clothes, new back to school supplies and the knowledge that we would get to see friends we had not seen since school ended the year before. But the eve of that first day brought the fear, complete with the upset stomach, headache, trembling and nightmares once sleep came. Would I find my class? Would I be on time? Would I manage to enter competently or would I somehow manage to make a fool of myself?
School in itself was not bad. I enjoyed learning, I loved reading and studying (to a point). I enjoyed the friends that I made. It was those who seemed to enjoy making my life miserable that brought on the fears. Year after year I was laughed at. My attempts at participating in various projects and not being totally successful were often ridiculed. I tried to join chorus once, that was when it was proven I can't sing. I tried acting in a school play once, I was hidden inside a large sandwhich board and my lines were "welcome dude" to Christopher Columbus. I love spelling so I was entered in the spelling bee, in front of the entire school my mind went blank and I missed my very first word. During outside recess I often wandered off by myself, that was how I managed to step on a nail that went all the way through my boot. My mother seems to love to tell me about the teacher who was going to fail me because of my handwriting until she went to see him. Yes, its bad. I got into an argument with a football player one day that ended with him calling me ratwoman.. that name followed me a couple of years. It was always fun to be walking the halls and here the theme to the old Batman television show only have it end with Ratwoman. There are so many memories of things that happened, memories that lurk in the subconscious waiting to be triggered.
Why am I telling all of this? Now, when I am counting down to 60 years old. Now, when my school years are long behind me, why am I bringing all of this up?
Because I am nearly 60 years old, and because my school years are long behind me and I still remember it. I don't cling to it, I don't wear it around my shoulders like a towel to cry in. I don't start and end every day thinking of those years. But it is a memory I have, it is my nightmare from time to time when I am facing doing something in front of people or with people who do not know me. It is because school is starting back up and millions of kids are returning to class.
How many of those kids are going to be facing the same fears? How many of them are to some degree, not socially savvy? How many of them are in any way different than what is thought of as the so called normal? How many of them, will be laughed at, ridiculed and maybe even physically attacked by other classmates? How many parents will think that it can't be that bad? How many will tell their kids to suck it up and go on? How many parents will go to the school only to have administrators tell them it can't be that bad or simply ignore them? How many kids will come home crying begging to not ever have to return to school? How many will take the ultimate way out?
How do we teach out kids to be strong in the face of bullies? My own son took Tae Kwon Do and that helped, but the best move was getting him away from high school drama and into the local college where he earned his high school diploma and went from there. But what of the others? How do we tell them that bullies are the weak ones? How do we convince them that words are merely words and cannot hurt you when they do? They last longer than a physical bruise because they bruise the spirit. They bring the nightmares and the fears.
How do we teach our kids not to be bullies? How do we get them to understand that being cruel to another is not cool? How do we teach them to be compassionate and kind in a world that seems to know neither?
What do we do, how do we manage to stop the nightmares of those who face them?