The anticipation of starting at Misty Mountain Academy (pseudonym) was not without anxiety and clouded expectations from the three of us. Sy was initially concerned about fitting in and making friends. He also asked several times about what the school would be teaching in math and science (spoiler alert: mom and I are heavy on the math and science; everything else was essentially non-existent in his home school curriculum).
Ree’L and I, on the other hand, were worried about the social construct within his class and school. Would he be behind his peers due to home schooling? And, the parent teacher conferences because, let’s face it, he’s my kid. Many of you may remember us telling you the story when Sylis first started attending the local school in Chogoria. He was the only ex-pat kid, so he stuck out like a sore thumb. The uniqueness of his skin and hair were very distracting and brought him more attention than he initially enjoyed. He understood what it felt like to be the only one who….
I rehash that story to set up this one. Last week, we were walking home from the first day of school, and Sylis was doing his classic data-dump, detailing every last event of his day in excruciatingly vivid detail. The most striking part was when he started to describe a young boy in his class from the Korean peninsula. Sylis described how this young boy, like him, was new to the school but explained what made this boy’s situation different was that he only knew a small amount of English (there are 30+ passport countries represented at this school - children of workers spread out across Africa).
Recognizing how this young boy’s lack of language might preclude his new friend from social interactions typical of elementary school kids, Sy said he went to the library and checked out a book about this boy’s home country. He then proceeded to show the book to the boy and tell him that he wanted to learn about his country and culture.
As he finished this story with, “Now we’re friends,” I was completely floored. Sylis thought nothing of it because he seamlessly transitioned into describing how he fell off the rip-stick (what you get when a skateboard and roller-blade enter a long-term relationship) at recess more times than he could count. I prodded with questions to get to the bottom of his actions, but they must have seemed ridiculous to him because he essentially kept saying, “duh dad…why wouldn’t I do that? He’s the only one in my class who doesn’t yet feel comfortable with English.”
Our child - whom we were worried about learning, assimilating, fitting in and all those things that parents concern themselves with when their child/ren begin school - reminded us that he’s not the only kid in the school. He reminded us that there are others, like he once was, who are “the only one in the class who….” The level of empathy and concern that he showed for the other child was remarkable, and honestly a wake-up call for me as a parent. There are so many times that I get wrapped up in what is going on with my life, my family and my responsibilities that I forget to look around for the only person sitting alone in their situation.
Sylis may not yet have grasped many things about being a student in a classroom, but he does understand empathy and how to lovingly care for his fellow human, especially when they’re the only one. I’m challenging myself and each of you to look around this week to reach out in love to the only one who…