My daughter packed her backpack weeks ago in giddy anticipation of returning to school. She asked me to paint her nails and “do her hair pretty.” She couldn’t be more excited to start grade six.
My son was in denial that summer was ending right up until the end. He gave little thought to his first day of high school outfit. He wasn’t even planning on brushing his hair until I “suggested” it. I pleaded with him to let me take him shopping, but he refused. “Mum, I’ve got enough clothes. I’m fine.” Kind of hard to take him seriously when he’s arguing his point in mismatched socks and pants that are miles too short.
But he’s in high school now. He’s a big boy. In short pants. His pants, his choice I guess. (Mind you, I went to the mall today and bought him a few new things against his will. I can’t have the kid looking like he’s been stuffed into shrunken kahkis all year.)
High school… no longer at our local elementary. He’s moved on and this is the first time his little sister will be at school without him.
At first she didn’t make the connection. “What? He’s leaving me?!” she shrieked when she finally understood.
He’s always been there, keeping a watchful eye on her.
She would take little side trips with her EA to his classroom for a quick hug or just to say, “Hi big brother,” for comfort during the day.
I’d be lying if I said that knowing he was there didn’t bring me some comfort too. It did. I’m sad they’re at different schools now but at the same time, I’m happy for my boy.
It’s not his job to watch over her. Though he does it happily, it takes a toll.
Like when he sees her class march by his door, his sister absent from the line. He quietly panics because he doesn’t know she’s with the speech and language pathologist for an assessment. He can’t concentrate on his math lesson because he needs to know where she is and that she’s okay.
Or like when a kid from another class asks him what’s wrong with his sister. He’s used to this by now, but it’s still difficult for him to explain. He shouldn’t have to explain. He should be playing basketball or eating lunch with his friends.
Or when he sees his sister walking around the black top at recess alone, with only her EA for company. It upsets him. Why won’t somebody go play with her?
That’s a lot of adult concern to carry on his not yet adult shoulders.
So I’m pleased for him. He’s not Avery’s big brother when he walks in the doors of his new school. He’s just another grade nine student trying to remember his locker combination and wishing his mother would stop suggesting he use product in his hair. Free of labels. Free of the responsibility. Free to be himself. Free to be a kid. Free.