This week as I skimmed my Facebook page, my attention fell to all the first day of school pictures posted. Most of these were from my hometown where school starts later than here in Georgia. I quickly noticed the pictures had something in common. All of the kids going to kindergarten or elementary school wore big smiles and their faces were aglow with anticipation.
In contrast, the kids heading off for their first day of middle school looked hesitant, wary and were marked with trepidation. I could relate to their lack of enthusiasm. I remembered exactly how they felt.
Three years ago now, I dreaded the first day of middle school for my youngest son, Lan. He was so eager to head off and join his brother in middle school. I, however, was a nervous wreck!
I didn’t share his enthusiasm of starting that next chapter of his life. Every other moment, it seemed, I found myself immersed in yet another news story depicting the callousness of kids today. Facebook nightmares. Bullying. Suicidal adolescents that fell through the cracks. My head throbbed with thoughts of everything that could go wrong. The overwhelming thought that hammered away in my mind was that kids can be so cruel.
My oldest son already attended the school and unbeknownst to me dealt with his own bullies the previous year. I just found this out months ago! This finally explained why he was hardly inclined to look after his brother. Cam was worried about himself! Sure enough, not even a week passed before a boy stepped in front of Lan and started questioning him.
A funny thing, or rather a blessed thing occurred then. One of the neighborhood kids stepped up to the perpetrator to defend Lan before the kid could get all of his words out. Kennedy’s defense of Lan set the tone that he was not to be harassed. With no prodding on my part, the other neighborhood kids also watched out for him throughout his three-year tenure in middle school.
Ramone in particular, would even let me know when major assignments such as science projects were due. Lan habitually would neglect to tell me of such pertinent information in a timely manner! In a day and age when most kids entering middle school were striving to get in the “in crowd” a good number of kids reached out to Lan and considered him their friend.
Lan’s confidence increased. He stayed after school to take part in art club and comic book club. He wanted to socialize. This was a major accomplishment!
Lan worked hard his second year of school to earn a place in the “A” band with all of his friends who were honor students. He wanted to go to Festival and compete just as they had done the year before. He set a goal, worked hard and achieved it.
I learned of many kind deeds well after the fact. The first day of middle school I fought back tears. Upon his eighth grade graduation, I let them flow.
In the last days of school, Lan’s principal saw me and asked if I would be attending the awards ceremony. I’d always done so for my oldest, a high achiever, and would do so for my youngest as well. Lan had just mentioned the day before that he did not think he would get any awards. He was rather sad about it. I told him it did not matter, not to worry and instead enjoy all the end of year activities with his friends.
Well, as my husband and I sat in the bleachers with the other parents, the principal began to explain a special plaque awarded each year. The Mandy Young Award is given annually to the eighth grader that overcomes some difficulty with a good attitude. When Lan’s name was called, he quickly made his way up front, especially so, for someone not expecting anything!
The gymnasium erupted in applause and kids stood chanting for him! Lan waved his hands to the crowd as they cheered, as if he were the president or some celebrity. It was quite the sight. I would have laughed if I hadn’t been crying.
Landon not only survived middle school, he thrived! Once again, a single thought hammered through my mind.
Kids can be so kind.