“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”- Nelson Mandela
It has been with quiet interest that I watch my eldest, not-quite Year 7 over the last few weeks. This blog is for him, and all the other not-quites.
The role of in between is the toughest of them all. To sit between one door closing and another not quite open, to wave goodbye to people and not quite know how long, or even how you will see them again. To miss out on the lasts: last assembly, last football game, last conversation, and although you knew it might be the last, you had that luxury, you didn’t quite know what to fill them with.
He sits in front of a screen to friends, not-quite knowing how to fill the time, because he never had to orchestrate such a monumental task: speaking was in snippets, and in-jokes, Lego and comics, in a bespoke language that everyone understood, but never like this: always in between sprinting or booting, before bells and hushes. And now they sit, like elderly gentlemen; budgies on their respective perches, shuffling with awkwardness and discomfort, all clipped wings and half-sentences.
Talking wasn’t a staple because doing was everything.
And did, he did. Climbing and sprinting with speed and stride, his energy was endless and fierce and daring. They did what they didn’t need to articulate, bounding about one another in combat to outdo the last challenge. Fearless and without regard, not through feeling but wisdom, he would arrive home every week with a new scrape, because that’s what boys do. Only, they don’t now, do they? They work out in front of screens and complete spot the difference challenges, leaping about for a slither of the day and then look about with defeat for the next thing, the next way to spend the time.
And schedules, and plans, and fleeting curiosity, it can only do so much to feed such despondence, because it lacks meaning- because he’s not-quite. No one has washed their hands of him, but the care and kindness of the last seven years feels like a distant memory, and moves further and further from view. And I could lie, and play the magician, and conjure up the next thing, the next celebrity, the next excitement, the next once-in a lifetime moment, and it excites or pacifies, but I can see that on some days, those moments aren’t enough, and I have to be truthful, and honest, and quietly, with interest, watch on so that when the next moment comes, I can fill it with wonderful things.but there’s an absence of new beginnings and friendly faces, because we don’t know what that looks like yet.
So when the world reveals itself a little more, and when we can sit down at six o’clock and ask, ‘how was school?’ and mean it, and when we can have uniform pictures and heavy bags and new friends and mobile phones and later curfews and all that comes with leaving not-quite behind, I’ll welcome it with open arms. Not space, and hesitancy, and doubt and fear. Never unprecedented. That’s not how first days go, for anyone, I hope.
And I don’t know why it bothers me, because I don’t think it bothers him, but it’s probably because he’s only not-quite Year 7. That’s probably why.