Just a few weeks ago Dads Take Your Child to School day occurred in New York City. Another one of those head-scratching official proclamations that makes one wonder: do we really need to remind parents to do parent-like things?
For me, taking my youngest son to school is a pleasure, especially since I rarely do it due to my work schedule; my wife usually drops him off.
Whenever my wife can’t, I get to take my little 5th grader to his elementary school. Only it is not a drop off.
After we get out of the car, we walk to the school gate, the closest point outside school grounds where parents are allowed to congregate. Past the gate, parents must remain behind as their children walk on alone.
While most kids carry their backpacks as they walk to school, I willingly carry my son’s; after all, the backpack is much too heavy for his still growing spine.
When I hand off the bundle that would be charged extra if checked onto an airplane, I give him a tight hug, encourage him to do well on that day’s assignments, remind him that “Daddy loves you,” stand away from the small group of guardians in order to be better seen, make eye contact with him through the apertures of the chain link fence, and wave both of my arms as if I’m doing jumping jacks. Looking ridiculous to others around me is the last thing on my mind.
My son is at an age where a full blown wave might make him look too much like daddy’s little boy to his peers so he settles for a half-wave with his left hand, arm bent at the elbow. He turns towards where his classmates line up, and every 10 seconds repeats his turning back with the half-wave as he maintains his forward march.
This dance of ours continues until he blends in with a sea of other blue/green backpacks 40 yards away.
Not until I am secure that he can no longer see me do I walk away.
What races through my mind is a mosaic of memories from my own childhood and from his, of saying goodbye to parents and children.
How quickly they outgrow the cute sailor suit in the window of the children’s clothing store, the swings on the playground, the annual trip to Legoland.
The next transformation will occur when the little boy skin symbolically falls away replaced with an adolescent armor, impenetrable by hugs and kisses.
With my oldest boy, I’m lucky if I get in a pat on the back goodbye.
What a shame that childhood can’t be twice as long, shielding them from the ugliness of the world that seems to worsen with each tomorrow, from Ebola epidemics to ISIS beheadings, before their enchantment of life evaporates.
Only 145 days remain of the current school year. Hopefully I get to take my son to school a few more times before his wave turns into a shrug, his glance back is no more when he moves on to middle school. If only every day was a Dads Take Your Child day.