Last week Jack’s teacher sent home a yellow star with lines printed on it. Parents were asked to outline academic and social hopes and dreams for our young third graders, and return it to class.
I doubt our parents ever completed such a project. It’s safe to assume that people who sent their kids in to buy cigarettes from the one-eyed man at the corner store were not too caught up in our hopes and dreams. I’m just saying.
But alas, how times have changed. Now mothers and fathers are called upon to create a wish list of accomplishments for our youngsters, to consider our part in their fragile futures. And we have to buy our own cigarettes.
Although only one of my children has been through third grade, I’m becoming somewhat familiar with eight-year old academia in our school. In the fall there’s the bat unit, where we’re required to stand outside with our shivering offspring, count how many bats fly over our house at a given time, and record it on an official form designed to track their migration patterns. This is a statistic I’d rather not know.
Over the course of the year they cover topics like Native American history, the solar system, and biomes. The talked about the work and method of famous artists and music styles of renowned composers.
Then with the rains of spring comes Intervention Convention, where the kids choose to either complete a book report or build something known as a Rube-Goldberg for a grade-wide competition. Joey chose the latter, and he and Joe spent most of February vacation building an elaborate Italian Soda Maker with marbles, chutes, and tears (mostly Joe’s). We didn’t win.
Hopes and dreams.
Sitting at my computer in the semi-darkness the night before my list of hopes was due, I was able to set aside my cigarette and bat snark and appreciate the meaning behind this project. Because not a day goes by when I don’t think about Jack’s future, third grade and beyond. But how do I summarize everything I wish for my blue-eyed, sandy-haired autistic son onto one paper star? I would need an entire constellation.
We are talking about a boy who memorizes the order of the buses as they line up outside the school everyday. Who, in second grade, agonized over not having after-school play dates like his brother and fell desperately in love with a quiet girl and her long dark hair.
Who once screamed out “I want to kill everyone here!”, as his heart was crying out “I feel frustrated I am last in line.”
And so I sat for a few minutes, and thought about the things Jack struggles with, things like communication and busy math worksheets and fire drills. And then I thought about the things that make him happy, like music class and running at recess and pancakes for lunch. And from there I penned my star of hopes.
It went something like this:
This year, may your friends in school outnumber the bats flying around our house.
May you keep improving your reading skills, and
connect with the concepts of math.
May you dig down deep into your heart for the right words,
even as the wrong ones hover at your lips.
I hope you become accustomed to the bell of the fire drill
and the noisy buzz of excited children in the hallways.
May there be lots of pancake-and-sausage-for-lunch days,
and less stay-in-because-it’s-rainy days.
May music continue to warm your heart and calm your body.
Hopefully you will choose the book report instead of the Rube-Goldberg,
but we’ll help you with whatever you decide.
And finally, may you continue teaching everyone around you
what it’s like to be Jack.