Our Story Begins:
Leaving Your Kids – How Do You React?
I stood in the crowd of people. Most of them within my view were Moms, though sprinkled in the crowd with me was the occasional Dad. We had all gathered there outside the elementary school as the sun was just creeping up behind the Sierras to check our kids in for their field trip.
Each child had a color code, represented on their necks with a bandanna, their name written on it in Sharpie. One of my sons pushed his way past some gossiping parents and signed in to his color group. His younger brother (by 30 seconds or so, but he likes saying that) had already made his way to another table. He wasn’t, after all, the teal group like his brother. He was BLUE!
One child is enough of a task when it comes to planning, paying and preparing for a field trip. I had two. Two sets of sheets; two sets of clothes to last four days; two pillows; two rain slickers; the list goes on and on.
This was a hard-fought trip. Noah, oldest of my twins, initially said “no.” That was on the first week of school. He didn’t know anyone, he didn’t trust others, and he’s slow to make friends – which is much like his father so I don’t blame him for that. I told him he’d miss out and be one of the only kids left behind while the entire class talked about it for the weeks and months after. He didn’t care.
Then, under recommendation from a teacher, we did a reconnaissance trip to look at the area. The plant life, the proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog peeling off the bay and revealing tide pools on the ground, it all made Noah want to go on the trip. His apprehension didn’t disappear, but by the cutoff date for deciding to go . . . he was in.
That brings us back to the day by the buses. Noah hugged me and immediately got on the bus. Sam, my younger twin, was a bit more apprehensive. He saw his teacher and smiled, the stress melting, slightly, off his shoulders.
I watched the families around me and I realized I might just be one of the few parents shouldering this well. I watched some parents preening over their 10-year-olds and next to them a group of mothers crying, tears streaming down their cheeks. But I didn’t act that way. Kids, you see, are not stupid. When you’re worried and stressed they’re worried and stressed, although they may not realize it. Sure, I worried but I was confident they’d be fine. It’s their first trip without family but we’ve faced far worse in the last three years.
I peeked up and Sam smiled and waved through the window and turned to his friend. I walked past and saw Noah, waving and smiling at me through his window, mouthing “love you!” He was content and happy.
I realized that, no matter how different this might be, they knew I thought they could handle this. That knowledge gave them confidence. When I looked and saw so many kids scared or stressed as their parents chased the bus down the driveway as it drove away I realized that, at least at the age of ten, that was more for the parents than the kids. Some of the kids might stress and worry how their parents are doing without them.
Mine, I know for a fact, are just looking forward to the adventure.
What about you? Do you show your emotions and worry to your kids, or do you boost their confidence? Which is better? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Dave Manoucheri is a writer, musician and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.