Last year Thing2 learned about loss – real loss – when his teacher died of cancer in the fall. There were many nights of holding him while he cried – wanting to know what was fair – for the loss of his beloved friend. Even after the tears subsided, the rest of the school year was not a good one for him. Thing2’s teacher was a legend, and filling his shoes in a few weeks or even months was impossible. The year was chaotic and confusing for our little spirit.
Wanting a fresh start, we switched him to a new school with kids his own age (he’d been a year ahead before). There hasn’t been much excitement this year, but we knew he was happy. Every Monday he brought home a homework pass – the prize for a perfect spelling test on Friday. Most nights he had a newly-illustrated, self-published and assembled book to show us. And on every report card we learned from his teacher that he was getting all A’s but he really likes to talk (you coulda knocked us over with a feather).
It’s only now at the end of the year that drama develops. The night before the last day of school, he put himself to bed and summoned me for his goodnight hug and kiss. We chatted about the day and tomorrow.
“It’s been a great year for you,” I said to him. Thing2, curled up on the top bunk, nodding solemnly at me through the bars. Then he turned his head into the pillow, and his body began to shake.
“I don’t wanna leave Ms. Wright,” he sobbed.
I spent the next 25 minutes sitting on the top step of his bunk with his arms wrapped around me in a strangle hold. I patted his back, trying to convince him he would see his teacher at school next year and that he would love the next teacher too. Exhaustion fuelled some of the tears, but only the thought of leaving a teacher who had given him a wonderful year – punctuated only by typical first grade diversions of playgrounds and construction paper projects and success – could inspire such sorrow.
I was happy to hold him through his tears, and there wasn’t one part of me that was sad at that moment. After all, he wasn’t learning about loss this time. He was learning about love, even if the rest of the lesson won’t become clear to him until a few years from now.