My Addy asked me if first grade was going to be hard. This was approximately eight seconds after she had finished her final day of kindergarten.
Of course, I gave her the obligatory “absolutely not” response. Which satisfied her for a minute.
As the summer break — her first and my first since the transition from high school to college — flew by, Addy was focused more and more on that notion: Was this year going to be more difficult than the last.
While you never want to tell a kid that, it begs the question: Why do we succumb to the thinking that each year of schooling and, therefore, adulthood has to be more difficult, more challenging and filled with more hurdles.
Because that’s life? Sure, I suppose.
The topics on her mind as Addy walked out of Lee’s Summit Elementary last May and back into school this week as a first-grader didn’t waiver much. In between summer vacations (the 15-hour Amtrak ride from Missouri to New Mexico will forever be in her head…and mine for that matter), trips to the splashpad and walks around downtown Lee’s Summit, school and what was ahead was a central theme.
I wouldn’t say her level of fret ever reached a point that I worried about her anxiety. But certainly, she was under the notion that first grade was going to be just plain problematic.
And second grade. And junior high. And high school. “Is it hard being an adult?” was an occasional query.
“Yes, it can be sometimes.” There, I told her. It was out there. Being an adult isn’t as fun as kindergarten, for sure. Or fifth grade, for that matter. Even when things get totally weird in seventh grade and the world seemingly melts down every half hour, it’s really not that bad.
But then again, neither is being an adult. Addy and I talked this summer about owning a business. Going on vacations. And the ability (although I don’t do it enough) we have to get in the car, drive to Sonic and get whatever we darn well please at 9 p.m.
But I must admit, although unbeknownst to her, her questions bring up a worthy topic: Is life supposed to get harder every year? And if so, when does that end? At 65? We grow up with that number drilled in our head as retirement age. So what happens then? Everything gets easier?
I can’t fully warn her about what’s ahead. My God, can you imagine telling your first-grader that heartache, bullies, geometry and nonstop testing are in their future? I just can’t.
What I can do, what I hope to do, is work to have her ready for the unknown. To roll with the punches. And in fact, I think in some ways they already do that. Our kids, largely, adapt to change so much better than we do as adults.
Does every year get more difficult? For my kid’s sake, I hope that isn’t the case.
School will be more challenging. Life will throw us curveballs and craters. I suppose none of us knows how we will handle it until we actually face it.
Go have fun in first grade, Addy. You’ve got this.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.