Tuesday, September 22, 2009

6th Grade Lessons

Last spring, I sat in my car in the pick up line at school, happily minding my own business. I was probably listening to sports radio, maybe leafing through a catalog, waiting for the urchins to be released to the sunny possibilities of longer days. I saw her coming and I should have known better. Another mom approached the car, smiling. Nothing unusual about that; I'm a friendly gal, I like to chat. Then she dropped the bomb.

"Wanna be sixth grade parent coordinator with me next year?"

"Well...." I stumbled, unsure. "What's involved?"

"Nothing big. Just organizing the parents." She said. She may have mentioned something about camping, but I was lulled by her confidence, her surety that it was a small job, the blossoms swaying in the breeze.

Many people have wondered how I got "roped" into this job, and I wonder myself, but I have to say, the trip to the camp for one little overnight happened at the exact right time for me and my parental neuroses.

We all have a little garbage we drag around about our kids: Is she friendly, does he get in trouble, who are her friends, what do others think of her...It's all brushed under the smooth rug of our perfect smiles. But it's there.

My friend and I drove to the camp to cook meals for 80 people and witnessed the glory that is 6th grade. I'm not sure what the kids learned, but, let me tell you, I gleaned so many important tidbits, it was the perfect antidote to my parental worries. I will say here that I noticed they were writing poems about nature, drawing what they saw, orienteering, canoeing and team building. Yeah, whatever. Back to me.

I watched the kids pour off the bus and run into a wide field carpeted with tiny yellow flowers. They scrambled for a snack and gathered into small pockets of friendship. The groups ebbed and flowed, at first separating into boys and girls, then flowing into focused groups of activity. Explorers, athletes, chatters, resters. They rambled about the field, completely happy. Everyone had time to be alone or with a group, whichever they preferred.

Tent pitching also showed me that though I'm a mom who likes to help out, my kid, our kids, are totally capable of things I never knew. Each group of three kids pitched their own tent. The knew how to spread the tarp, build the poles, pound the stakes. They organized their gear in their tents, then stood proud and beaming. My kid pitched a tent. Cool.

I watched at meals as they filed through the line, some greedy, some reticent, all hungry and ready to step up. They piled food onto their plates, filled their cups, and swallowed their food. (Note to next year's group, bring more chicken nuggets; those kids can eat.)

I had thought I was a helicopter parent, hovering about my child, helping her with every decision, big or small, lending a hand whether necessary or not. I learned at this trip that I am no where near being a helicopter mom. If I was, my helicopter's been grounded for a long time. And marveled.

These children are comfortable with who they are, in love with life, and skilled in many ways. I don't know if I ever felt that comfortable as a child, but they took my breath away with their confidence and ability. I allowed myself a small pat on the back, and a mental one to the other mamas who manage to let loose the strings and watch our babies fly.


  1. B E A U T I F U L. . . thank you, Jen.

  2. How fun to read this, and to gain insight about sixth graders without having to go camping with them! :) Seriously, though, I wonder/worry about all the same things regarding my sixth grader, who is also my firstborn. And I suspect that I'd be comforted in all the same ways, by similar observations, if I were to spend 24 hours with a whole group of them. Thanks for sharing what you saw and felt.