Friday, September 05, 2008

"World, Take My Son" *



"My son starts to school tomorrow.

It's all going to be strange and new to him for a while, and I wish you would treat him gently. You see, up to now, he's been king of the roost. He's been boss of the backyard. I have always been around to repair his wounds, and I've always been handy to soothe his feelings. But now, things are going to be different.

This morning he's going to walk down the front steps, wave his hand, and start on his great adventure that probably will include wars and tragedy and sorrow. To live his life in the world he has to live in, will require faith and love and courage. So World, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know. Teach him....but gently, if you can.

He will have to learn. I know that not all men are just, that all men are not true. Teach him that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick. Teach him the wonders of books. Give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hill.

Teach him that it is far ,more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men, but to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and to take only the good that comes through.

Teach him to sell his brawn and brains to the highest bidder, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob, and to stand and fight if he thinks he's right. Teach him gently, World, but don't coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

This is a big order, World, but see what you can do. He's such a nice little fellow, my son."


This essay found it's way into my hands when my children were very small and starting off to school. It expressed, in words I couldn't have strung together at the time, exactly how I felt. Since our 5 1/2 year old grandson, T, and just six year old granddaughter, S, started kindergarten this week, I've been remembering when their mom and dad respectively, started off to school. The huge brown eyes of T's mom as she stood, not yet five, so pretty, so little, so shy, and so scared, on the school playground, and the sparkling, excited eyes of S's dad, swaggering his way off to the big world, having heard all about it from big sis. And I thought of this.

And now, looking back I know that the World listened. I know that they face the inevitable slings and arrows with faith and love and courage. I could take the world to task for not being as gentle a teacher as I would have liked, but that wouldn't change anything. It did teach them the wonders of books, and they do have a finely honed appreciation for the marvels of nature. And backbones of steel.

In my mind's eye I could see the thin, yellowing piece of paper...So I dug and dug, in all the wrong places, and couldn't find it. In despair sat down, and thought.....and thought. And then the universe took pity on me and threw me a lifeline. The raggedy old bulging journal I'd written in sporadically all the years they were growing up! That's where it's sure to be! Some more digging. And sure enough! There it was! And here it is. I hope you like it as much as I do.


*My thirty plus year-old piece of paper declares the original source to be unknown. Whoever printed and distributed it found it in the Pennsylvania Parent-Teacher Bulletin of September 1971.

25 comments:

Thimbleanna said...

Wow Molly! At first I thought it was you writing that and your son was going off to college now. It's very touching -- and just perfect for a kindergarten parent. I hope the world will be gentle with those grandbabies!

Oh, and thanks for digging it up for us. Your house and memory sound just like mine. I've learned a new trick when that happens to me. If I can just remember a teeny bit about what I'm looking for, I try and google it. Without going back and re-reading your post to jog my memory, I put what I remembered (the first line) into google -- and it popped up! Only one hit, but that's all it takes!

Kacey said...

Don't you just love articulate writers? Thanks, Molly. I wrote a nice long e-mail to you and then lost it to cyberspace before I could click on send. I will try again tomorrow.

StitchinByTheLake said...

Beautiful sentiments...the longings of a mother's heart. We are all the same, wanting the most and the best for our wee ones. blessings, marlene

sMC said...

I always thought it was like setting them down on one side of a busy motorway and saying Godspeed.. I will be waiting for you. Mine managed to cross the motorway with a few accidents along the way. hugs

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Oh, Molly. Just like that. Thank you so much for this!!

Stomper Girl said...

It expresses so exactly how I felt when I let Climber out of my care and into the school yard. And in a few months I'll have to do it all over again with my little Cherub.

Molly said...

Anna---I tried to google it before I went digging. If I'd had any luck I wouldn't have had to dig at all!! What do you know about google that I don't? Got a friend over there, or did you show them those breasticles? Gotta play fair!

Kacey---I sympathise! That's happened to me more times than I care to remember.....I'll be looking out for you tomorrow!

Stitchin'---With your gaggle of grandchildren you must know those feelings intimately!

Birdy---It's like watching the mama bird teaching her babies to fly. It takes fortitude to encoursage them to do something that is so fraught with very real danger!

Puanani---So glad you're back in circulation!

Stomper---the mercy is that we don't have to let go all at once. Just one tiny bit at a time.It's a bittersweet thing, since the whole object of the exercise is to make them independent of us.....

fifi said...

Yes, i thought your son was off to university: it is itting for anyone going of into the world.
swet.

meggie said...

Nice thoughts to hold as your younger generation begins their journey into the big world.

rhubarbwhine said...

I am a Kindergarten Teacher, and have one similar to this that I do hand oout. I'll see if I can dig it up for you to read, and I am interested in reading the differences.
Thanks for this!

Julie's journey said...

M, I too thought it was something written by you. It is beautiful and something that we would all wish for our children.

Isabelle said...

Indeed.

My boy, home briefly last weekend from his first doctoring job, has started biting his nails, which he hasn't done since he was about 10. Last time he stopped when I offered him a bribe of £10. Wonder if that would work again. I want him home.

peppermintpatcher said...

The irony of it is that we all want them to be able to go and stand on their own feet and successfully negotiate their way independently. It's just not easy to actually do it.

Ali Honey said...

Words worth keeping and thinking on.

I think we all go on learning some of those lessons even into old age.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

That is so beautiful! It expresses perfectly my hopes for my son and daughters when they started the adventure of school and life away from my side.

They all faced many hard challenges and came through as the finest people I know, and I am so very proud of them as you are of yours.

Sometimes life is simply wonderful and if we are very lucky, we live to see it unfold in our children's (and grandchildren's) lives.

Good luck to your little ones. May their journeys be full of love and beauty and goodness.

raining sheep said...

I got tears in my eyes reading that. I remember my sons going to grade 1, and how excited they were, and how excited and anxious I was. I think September is the start of a new year for most people, more so than January because we have all experienced Grade 1 first hand and probably retain some memories of that first school year in our lives, in our children's lives, and for you now - your grand-children's lives.

Pauline said...

It looks as though you had a large part in what your children learned in the world, and continue to have in your grandchildren's lives. Thanks for sharing this - it is every mother's prayer (or should be).

Tanya Brown said...

Poignant.

I think you have done well with your life and your children. I'm going to keep a kind thought for your grandchildren.

There are things that are hard to watch sometimes, casual unkindnesses that leave one's child (or grandchildren) bewildered or hurt. My husband often reminds me that all of these experiences are valuable in some fashion, because this is how the world is: messy, by turns cruel and kind, and above all, infinitely precious.

Please forgive my loquaciousness. I'm having some concerns about my father this morning. I suppose I'll go turn the compost pile - there's nothing like a compost pile to bring one solidly back to earth!

riseoutofme said...

What about the daughters?

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I love it, it's wonderful.
I'm so glad that you shared it with us... I shall read this to some young people that I know.

I have never left this place without having had my heart touched and been given a smile.

Thank you.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

PBS said...

So beautifully written, and so true. I remember that first day of school for my son and before long, will be repeating it with my grandson.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I have an award for you over at my place... ;o)


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Eastcoastdweller said...

Such beautiful writing -- heartfelt without being treacly, bittersweet but not sappy.

A rare gem.

Thank You for sharing it.

Eleni said...

Molly,
Another beautiful piece of writing. I don't have kids but I still can relate as the World teaching me many lessons in my travels. I also thank my Guardian Angel for protecting me so well all these years....and continuing.

elena jane said...

my youngest son started kindergarten this year as well. next year, for me, is the big one, full day first grade, the "big" school, the bigger bus....but kindy is such a big leap. almost as much as each of the other new schools.
when my oldest son started kindy, his teacher sent home a poem and a cotton ball for wiping tears. i have never been able to find that poem (it's packed, with the cotton ball away somewhere so safe i can't recall it even)...