I've been thinking all morning about the strange juxtaposition that we have with our school-age children. When kids are young, we are able to protect them a good deal. We are with them more hours of the day, and generally have them nearby even when they are in daycare or nursery school. Once they get into school, however, they start to have two separate lives. There is the kid that you know at home - and the one that is out there in his solitary day.
I vividly remember hearing this from Rabbi Seth Mandell while I was still in Potomac. Rabbi Mandell made aliyah with his family years ago from Silver Spring and settled in a beautiful area not far from us called Tekoa. He came back to Silver Spring five weeks after his son, Coby Mandell, was brutally and unspeakably murdered by Arabs while hiking near his home with a friend. Rabbi Mandell explained that at the shiva, they kept hearing stories of a kid that they didn't recognize. They were amazed to hear about this boy - their son - who had so many different experiences at school and who seemed to be such a different child when he wasn't with them. He urged us to try, as much as possible, to know what is going on with our children in their schools and to be aware of what type of kid they are when they aren't at home.
I am begin to see this in my own life, and it's certainly a struggle, as a parent, to realize that we have to let go. When I hear that Yehuda wasn't able to play soccer because the other kids "wouldn't let him" or that Matan watched a fight in school, it makes me feel completely helpless. I know that my kids need to develop their own skills and learn to cope in their school environments by themselves, but it sure is hard to adjust to this reality as the parent.
Two days ago there was a terrible bike accident near Efrat about five minutes before Matan's bus drove by. A biker was hit by a car and was severely hurt. I knew about it in the morning but I didn't say anything to the kids when they came home, of course. Matan, however, came home informing me of all of the details. He didn't bother to mention how he knew these details, nor did he tell me that he had witnessed the entire thing.
Later that night, when I was driving with Matan, he pointed out the spot where it occurred. "Wait a minute," I said, getting nervous. "Why do you know where it occurred?" And then the whole story unraveled. He explained that they had been driving by exactly after it happened and that he saw a quick glimpse of the biker's arm. Trying to keep my voice from shaking, I said, "Just the arm?" Matan replied, "Yeah. I saw his arm and then quickly looked away. I didn't think that it was my place to see more."
Breathe out. I was so impressed with his answer and so relieved that he hadn't, by choice, seen more. While it's very difficult to reconcile these two worlds that our children live in, I'm coming to see that the best we can do is to teach them well and fortify them before we send them out there.
Then, we just have to hope that they have an easy time and that they make the right choices.