Troy Media – Catherine Ford
Party-hearty young people believe the new year falls on January 1. Parents know better, albeit their new year’s celebration is a moveable feast. For some, the happy dance started at the end of last week, when some Pecksniffian school boards in the country opened their doors for the first day of school.
For others without that air of righteous morality, those who understand the mentality of summer and seasons, school starts after Labour Day. When it should.
For the past month, newspapers have been full of stories – back-to-school clothes, “interesting” lunches, crippling fees for busing and extra-curricular activities – all designed with the parents in mind, most of whom seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid.
Trust me, no kid wants an “interesting” lunch. My mother tried that on me – on the rare occasions when she was on a diet/nutritional crusade and decided to make my lunch – and my nutritional salad was laughed out of the school cafeteria. (At least Mother’s forays into lunch-making did not include putting Coke in a thermos, as she did – once – for my brother. The physics of that was obvious when it exploded.)
What my mother never made me was what I really wanted – a roast beef sandwich. It never happened because Sunday roast was Monday’s dinner and Tuesday’s hash. (At least I was spared the orange marmalade sandwich which appeared in one of my brother’s school lunches.)
We children learned early to make our own.
This is by far the best advice for schoolchildren: Make your own lunch. And yes, you can do this in Grade 1.
There are other useful tips the media never bother to tell little kids. Rarely do back-to-school articles address themselves to the people most involved and surely, the most fearful – children.
In Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, he offers the kind of bumper-sticker advice parents love. Play fair. Share everything. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them.
While these are good, they don’t deal with the stark practicalities of a child’s life when he or she first meets a lifetime of sitting still, obeying orders and being on time.
Herewith, 10 Rules For Success In Grade 1 And In Life:
1. Going to the bathroom: Raise hand, wriggle in seat. Ask permission.
2. Finding your stuff: Ask your mother to put your name in everything, particularly if it’s expensive and/or fashionable. This is the first lesson in other people’s occasional lapses in honesty.
3. School clothes: Velcro is a child’s best friend. Its use is the first step in learning the difference between fashion and convenience. The downside? A lifetime involving duct tape and sweatpants.
4. Looking different: Parents want you to look cute because you’re small. This is slow death to most kids who want to look like everyone else. Spill milk/juice/breakfast on the “cute” clothes. Eventually your parents will get the message.
5. Lunch: Learn to make your own because your mother has been bombarded for weeks with suggestions on nutritious and varied lunches.
6. Class bully: The only surefire method of dealing with the class bully – and there always is one – is to form a team with a couple of other kids who are being picked on. Threaten the bully with a rumour about bed-wetting. This is a good lesson for dealing with bosses who are bullies and yes, you will find the bullies are frequently at the top of the food chain.
7. Room changes, recess and when to eat lunch: The teacher will tell you when, where to go, and when to come back. This will be the pattern for the rest of your life.
8. Being on time: Schools have bells at the beginning and end of classes. For the rest of your life you will live by what a clock tells you.
Ever so often, rebel. Follow the fire truck, instead of going to school, as I did one afternoon in Grade 1. When adults talk about stopping to smell the roses, this is what they mean.
Consider those who are always on time are respected and admired. People who are always late seem to have more fun. Your choice.
9. Best friends: There is always one girl in the class who is perfect. Everyone will want to be her best friend, not yours.
This is how school prepares you for life, where beauty frequently trumps hard work.
10. Don’ts: Don’t eat yellow snow. Don’t lick the icicle it it’s still attached. Don’t put your tongue on metal railings. Don’t offer to take the class pet home for the weekend.
And never, ever, put Coke in a thermos bottle.
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