Mixed - FamilyEducation

Mixed

July 27,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

L.'s old elementary school started up on Monday. For the first time in six years L. did not head back to school this last week of July. We drove downtown yesterday, too, for a family trip to the library. It was a desperate attempt to get everyone out of the house for an activity that didn't involve the usual yelling, protests and name-calling from L. that seem to accompany most attempts to leave the house these days. Now, in the dog-days of the summer, the suffocating heat and humidity, I'm all about keeping it easy. After what feels like months of battle, I'm too weary of the struggles to get L. to the pool, even though that's the simple answer for all of us. T. loves to go, so we've been alternating taking her while the other rotates through L.-approved outings: a trip to the pet store, the Asian grocery store, or the library.

Yesterday though we got everyone out, despite the heat. We drove past L.'s old school around dismissal time and the carpool line was busy as usual, the lights were on in the building, the sidewalks filled with kids. It felt strange, passing the place by. What would his first day have been like? I thought about the teachers we missed, and wondered if his old resource teacher missed him too, that first day of school.

"You'd be at school today," I told L. "If you weren't moving on to middle school."

He made an unmistakeably disgusted sound from the back seat.

"Do you miss it?"

"No way," he said. "No way."

I guess that's good, really, although I think I'd be happy inside if he did miss it a little. I also think a small, buried part of himself does miss it, even if he doesn't recognize and identify the mixed-up feelings inside that way. He's been grouchy and moody lately and pulling away from us. I know he feels the tug of old rhythms, even if they were unpleasant ones. The unknown, after all, is always infinitely more frightening than what you have come to know, no matter how difficult that was, or how important it is to leave it all behind.