September's arrival reminds me of a night many years ago, just before my son was to enter kindergarten. On his best days, Austin was an angel, and even on his worst, he was rarely bad.
On this night, however, he was a holy terror. My first impulse was to sit him in a corner or send him to bed, but something made me reach deeper, and I realized that Austin's behavior had more to do with the pre-school jitters than a change in his nature.
With this insight, I snagged a couple of forks and a can of peaches - one of Austin's favorite treats - and headed into the monster's lair.
'Sometimes,' I said casually as I sat on his rug, 'people get scared about what's going to happen to them when they start something new. Do you ever wonder what kindergarten's going to be like?''
For a while, Austin stabbed silently at the peaches.
'Will there be a lot of kids?'' he finally asked.
'Quite a few,'' I said. 'But you'll get to know them quickly, and then you'll have a lot more friends.''
A pinhole opened in his wall of fear, and questions tumbled out: What if his teacher was mean? What if he got sick? Would I remember to pick him up at school?
I worried about Austin starting school without enough sleep, but I knew that my son's first day of school only came once. It was important, so we talked.
During a recent move, I found photographs from that first day of school. Five-year-old Austin was standing at the top of the steps, raising both fists in triumph. He looks as though he had already mastered the day.
He still remembers those peaches and that talk, even though he's grown now. Our conversations continue, but now they are long distance. Even so, we're proud to call each other pals.
I learned many lessons that night - lessons about being a mother and a friend. I know now that misbehavior is often subterfuge for fear. I learned that, in the long run, it takes less time to get to the heart of the matter than to dance around all we've left unsaid.
And I now know for a fact that staying connected and being real with each other doesn't take much extra time and doesn't require anything fancy. Sometimes, it can be as simple as opening a can of peaches.
It's my honor to be the new editor in chief of CAPPER'S. I hope you'll be patient with me as I begin.
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