161. Being There

Children usually start out life right near the people who gave it to them. That’s often really good time. Love flows back and forth, and parents and children work together to make life work. There are problems, issues, and headaches, but if there weren’t rewards that made it all worthwhile, there wouldn’t be quite so many children.
But when a child is five or six years old, there’s a sudden change. The child suddenly starts spending several hours each day in school. It’s expected, in our society, that parents and children will adjust to this sudden separation. In fact, for many, there are pre-schools, nursery schools, and day care centers, etc., and the separation happens even earlier. Yesterday, when I first thought of writing an article about truancy, I was thinking like a teacher. Teachers, after thinking through and writing their lesson plans, can get irritated when a parent keeps a child out of school for any reason other than illness. It can take concentration, dedication, resourcefulness, creativity, and time to plan lessons, and when a parent keeps a child out of school after all that, any reason other than illness can seem frivolous and disrespectful.
In the winter, a teacher who sometimes may daydream about basking on some sun-drenched tropical beach can get quite annoyed by a letter from a parent which says, “Eloise will be going to Bermuda with us. We’ll be back in two weeks. Please give her any work she will miss.” A self-respecting teacher may think, Eloise cannot possibly do any work that will be an adequate substitute for being in class. And the teacher may also be thinking, why can’t I go to Bermuda?
Notwithstanding this double-edged resentment teachers may feel, that time spent in Bermuda, which can be seen as a field trip, giving a child a little extra awareness that there is a world beyond home and school, is, more importantly, usually a time when the child gets to be with her/his parent(s). And that doesn’t have to happen in Bermuda; it can happen in your kitchen. The first five or six years aren’t enough, and the tired hours after a day of work and school aren’t enough. When the child grows up, there’s no telling how much time the family will be able to spend together. Jobs can make it difficult. So can geographical distance. As a teacher – even as a teacher who tried hard to be a parent first – I occasionally felt resentful when I found out that a child was missing or would miss school to spend good time
with his/her family. But childhood is a precious time, and however valuable my lessons may have been, I couldn’t stay resentful long. I think parents should spend as many good moments with their children as they can.

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