Fatherhood: The beginning of another great adventure

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Gus is now 2,150 days old and it's been at least 365 days since I wrote my last Fatherhood column. As might be expected, so much about him has changed over the past year and now we are looking at even bigger changes, with him starting kindergarten.

Becky and I worried the entire summer over whether to continue to send him to private school or enroll him in the local public school. Long after Gus had fallen asleep we stayed awake weighing the perceived benefits and disadvantages of each system, fretting over every detail. We were concerned that Gus, who needs to run into things, likes to scream and is sometimes overwhelmed by loud noises, would be able to deal with a public school. We were also worried about the curriculum and how the school would deal with a child who was, at times, somewhat unruly. In truth, Gus is typical of just about every almost-6-year-old and his behaviors can sometimes be a challenge to us because not only are we his primary caregivers, as he is an "only," we are also his primary playmates.

Neither Becky nor I had what you might call extraordinary positive experiences from our time in public schools, so we have been informing our own worries through our own lenses of perception. We came to the realization that that's not fair to Gus, as he is his "own man," and has the benefit of parents who are engaged in every aspect of his life and have given him emotional tools we did not receive from our own parents.

After meeting and talking with the principal of our local school, Gus' prospective teacher and the school's occupational therapist, we made the decision to send him there. We left the meeting as if a burden had been lifted from our shoulders and hearts. They were genuinely enthused over Gus coming to the school and excited that we wanted to be involved in any way that was acceptable.

We still had our qualms about transferring Gus from a private to a public school. For about a week before the start of kindergarten, I brought him to the playground and let him monkey around. Two days before school started, Becky and I brought him to the playground and after he messed around for about 30 minutes, we broke the news to him. We were expecting a meltdown, but instead, he said "OK," and ran back to play.

It's been several school days now and his enthusiasm has only grown each day. On Labor Day, he was disappointed to learn he had two home days before he could go back to school. And when I asked him if he liked his new school he replied "I love my new school." He also likened his teacher to Miss Binney, the kindergarten teacher in "Ramona The Pest."

"She understands," said Gus, mimicking Ramona's evaluation of Miss Binney. When Becky asked him what he meant, he repeated quietly, "She understands."

I didn't really need elaboration; I understood what he was saying, and it was good.

Becky and I would like to think that we prepared him for the change with our choices for his summer camps, but we tend to forget that though he is just a little boy, he is resilient and understands more than we would like to admit. We want to throw a big shout-out to the staffers at Camp Starfish, in Rindge, N.H., and Barn Day Camp at Farm and Wilderness in Plymouth, Vt. Both camps were perfect for Gus and it was easy to see that he was loved by his counselors and cherished for what he brought to the groups.

On Thursday we kept him home because he was a little under the weather, but yesterday he was so excited to be going back to school that I had to keep reeling him in at the front door until it was actually time to leave. That same morning, I read to Gus and his classmates — the first of many Friday morning readings to come, I hope — and I was delighted to see how genuinely happy he is to be in the classroom of his new school. He gets to dance and play and has chores and each day there is a "special" — art, P.E., makerspace, etc. — that he eagerly looks forward to. And I am so in awe of his teacher, who manages to wrangle 19 kids while supporting them and treasuring the contributions each brings to her classroom.

So now Gus is on to his next great adventure, and so far he is totally in love with it. It's a great relief to Becky and me to think we made the right choice for our right boy, but most of the credit goes to his new teacher and her support staff at his new school. And, of course, plenty of credit goes to Gus, who rolls out of bed every day with a sparkle in his eyes, ready for whatever the world throws his way so he can throw it right back.

Bob Audette is the day editor of the Brattleboro Reformer. He can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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