First grade. Those first few weeks as the family transitions back into the school year schedule can be a killer. Elder Girleen has bags under her eyes like she’s been cramming for a final, but honest, Ms. M the First Grade Teacher, she’s in bed by eight!
Last night, though, I know she was up a little later: I could hear her in her bedroom reading On the Banks of Plum Creek to herself for at least half an hour. Reading a chapter book. The second week of first grade. I myself don’t remember much about first grade besides the tedium of Sally, Dick and Jane and the morning nit-check (it being 1970 in small town Georgia after all).
First grade is just not what it was back then in those primitive days; in fact, a couple of times it has already seemed to me like Elder Girleen’s first grade is my first grade experience, completely inverted. She can read like nobody’s business already; I was grinding through books with little more two words on each page at that age. But on the other hand, I was walking by myself to school. Elder Girleen can’t.
Her school isn’t within walking distance from our house, which makes things easier for me: I don’t have to face any hard choices about whether or not she should. But every morning when I drive her there or carpool with the neighbor, I think about the way things used to be — the quarter bestowed upon me so I could stop for ice cream at the soda fountain at the pharmacy on the way home, the fact that once I walked all the way home from school backwards, and down one of Athens, Georgia’s main artery streets, no less — and the way they are now, when letting a first grader play in the front yard of your house may be a fraught proposition.
All this is a rich vein to mine. And Leonore Skenazy, a New York City mom and New York Sun columnist does just that, here. In case you missed the uproar (as I had), Skenazy let her nine-year-old take the subway home from Bloomingdale’s without a parental escort and then wrote about the experience for her column. Two days later she was on the Today Show (this is much worse than ending up on the cover of “Bad Mommy Monthly”).
Not saying I agree with everything she says … but it is food for thought.
As someone who’s not a parent…I do think kids need a little more freedom…on the other paw, some good lessons have been learned over the year. But do we really want a generation of people so protected they have no survival skills, no sense of adventure, no sense of personal responsibility?
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