Eve of Third Grade

Elihu has not gone to bed before 11 pm since, oh, hmm, let’s just say – since school was out last June. ! So tomorrow is his first day of school – his teacher is Mrs. Huggins (he can’t help giggling and referencing Mrs. Huh-wiggins of the Carol Burnett show, a favorite retro You Tube treat.) Ideally he should be up by 8. That sounds civilized, I know, yet consider the context. One a.m. bedtimes (some precluded by performing at the Greenmill in Chicago with dad) and 11 a.m. mornings… more like a teenager than a third grader. I’m sure I’m not alone. I know there are other kids out there who have lived the entire summer in a different time zone. I just wonder if they’re somehow a  bit more emotionally prepared for the reality of an early morning than my son is. I know I’m not.

I think back on third grade. It was the first year I was aware of romantic longing. It was the year Trixie wrote four letter words on the bathroom wall and I was publicly blamed for it. Until Mrs. Field had written the offending words on the blackboard for the class, hoping the guilty party would admit to the crime, I had never even been aware of having heard them. (As a striking contrast to that, my son uses the same words sparingly and colorfully, and with my permission.) It was the year that social orders became a painful reality of my world. A strange mixture of things happened that year; in some ways I can say it was the end of my true childhood. My son still believes in Santa, in the Easter bunny. He knows enough to put social discrimination at school into context, forgiving his trespassers on account of their own lack – and not his. He is both trusting and childlike as well as savvy and discerning. He has an awareness of his world that I didn’t have until I’d graduated from High School. What will third grade be for him? His first real crush? Or simply his times tables? The end of Santa? The start of true peer pressure??

When Elihu awoke this morning he said “I wish I were in school already!” Whatever he’s in for, he almost there…

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