Parenting Perspectives: Always Starting Over
By Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
“You’re a big fish in a small pond now, you know.” But it was my voice this time, speaking to my fifth-grader as she hoisted her backpack onto her shoulders.
Her eyes lit at my words, the thought of being top dog for a year. She no doubt was imagining herself and her classmates donned in royal attire, stepping gallantly along a red velvet carpet through school halls, pinky fingers waving at the underclass underlings all bowing in unison.
But then the crusher. “Enjoy it, sweetie. Next year you’ll be a small fish in a big pond again.”
Her smile remained, but I could see the gears rolling in a new direction now.
Much as I wanted to scoff at my father whenever he brought things into proper perspective, everything looks different from the parenting side of the fence.
While I don’t wish to ruin my daughter’s final year of elementary school before it’s even really begun, there’s something incredibly judicious in the fish-pond analogy.
Even as my daughter has found her way to the top of the summit, her oldest and youngest brothers have found themselves at the bottom of the heap, one having started kindergarten, the other, high school.
“I didn’t make any friends yet,” my kindergartner announced after the first day. By day three, he claimed he’d made four, though he didn’t know their names. I love what this says about the 5-year-old mindset – how labels are far less important than whether your neighbor shared his crayons. It also reminds me that it’s just plain hard to start anew.
And then there’s my grandmother’s 90-year-old friend, whom I visited with my mother recently. She moved to Fargo a year ago to be near her daughter after living in Bismarck most of her life. But despite having a nice apartment, she seemed misplaced within it. Gazing out toward her balcony, past bright flowers and evergreen trees, she said quietly: “I miss my garden and my friends.”
I realized then that this starting-over thing never really ends.
The old adage my father so enjoyed drudging up has yet to outlive its usefulness, and I’m thinking it’s a lesson we can never learn well enough: to be reminded what it feels like to be the new kid in school.
Perhaps the lesson of humility is even more important than I’d considered that first day.
Whether 5 or 95, we’ve never really “arrived.” We’re always on our way to someplace new.
Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo.