Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Buddies, Bears, and Big Lessons Learned

It occurred to me today that I haven't written about our little elementary school yet. It's been almost one whole year that I've been blogging, and yet not one mention of "The Little School With the Big Heart" (that's our motto--isn't it quaint?).

And there's so much to tell! I think I may have opened up a new section of blogging creativity in my brain--the Hawthorne room. Hmmm.

Let me just start by saying that one of the best decisions we ever made was to put our girls in Hawthorne School. It's a tiny little school--just two classes per grade--tucked into the middle of our neighborhood just two blocks from our house. I still meet people from across town who, when they hear that my kids go to Hawthorne say, "Oh yeah, Hawthorne. I've heard of it, but where is it?"

We kind of like it that way. Small, quaint, and not too easily accessible. It feels safe. We definitely like it that way.

Kate started at Hawthorne in first grade and everyone else progressed through its ranks from that point on. We've had some teachers three times, and all three girls had the same fourth grade teacher.

(I just realized that I could write several posts on that teacher alone! Of course, she could probably write VOLUMES about my three girls. I think she knows them better than I do, what with their Arnold Horshack "oooh, oooh, oooh! Call on me!" ways.)

One of the sweetest aspects of Hawthorne, even though there are so many, is how they pair up a 5th grader with a kindergartener as "buddies." All year long the buddies spend time together on special days, doing crafts, tye-dying shirts, playing games, learning how to t.p. the principal's house. You get the idea.

The kindergarteners have someone to look up to all year long, and the 5th graders get to feel like the big dogs of the school because some little kindergarten kid thinks they're cool. It's a win-win situation, really.

Plus, it gives the teachers a chance to run to Starbucks in the middle of the day when the kids are supposedly crafting together. Just kidding--the Starbucks is probably a little too far (although there is a drive thru!).

Anyway, today was the culmination of all the buddy-bonding activities that the kids had been through all year. It was the day most looked forward to since the first day of school. It was the Grand Puba of school days.

It was a field trip.

To the zoo, no less.

With 5th graders accompanying their kindergarten buddies.

Come to think of it, I'm not even sure whose field trip it was--5th grade or kindergarten--because they were all so excited about it.

Now that I have a 5th grader and she's the youngest in our family, it stands to reason that this is our last year at Hawthorne (more on that next week). And it also stands to reason that since this is Maggie's last field trip, I would be called upon to chaperone. Not by the teachers, mind you. The teachers could care less if I was there or not because they had about a 1:1 student:parent ratio of chaperones today. And, truth be told, I'm not that great of a chaperone. I tend to wander. I talk to the other adults too much. I don't pay great attention to the animals.

No, the person summoning my presence on the field trip was . . . no big surprise here . . . Maggie. A couple of weeks ago, in passing, she said something like, "Well, when we go on the zoo trip . . . blah, blah, blah." I don't even know what she said after that because my ears started ringing and I sort of lost my breath for a few minutes.

After I regained my composure, I subtly said, "Oh, Maggie, did you think I was going on your field trip to the zoo?"

"Well, sure, Mom," and then a long pause . . . "You were planning on going, weren't you?"

"Oh yeah, sure, Maggie. Let me just check the calendar to make sure I'm free that day."

"No, Mom, you don't have to go if you don't want to."

Ahhhh, there it was. The old you-don't-have-to-go-if-you-don't-want-to. Yeah, right.

"No, no, Maggie," I quickly recovered. "It's not that I don't want to go. I do want to go. I really do."

"No you don't, Mom. I can tell you don't want to go." How she could tell, other than my stuttering and stammering and my trying to get over the shock, I really don't know.

So the calendar was checked--completely empty--and arrangements were made for me to come along on the most-beloved year-end activity. The zoo field trip.

I only made one concession. I had to drive my own car. The bus would surely put me over the edge and I would never again be able to set foot on either school property or zoo property again. I would be scarred for life if I rode the bus, so I put my foot down on the driving arrangements.

Today was the day, and you know what? It was fun. I got to hang with Maggie and her little kindergarten buddy and a couple of other girls from Maggie's class and their buddies. It was so sweet to see the big kids act semi-responsibly . . . for the first half hour anyway.

And I learned some things at the zoo today.

(I guess you don't get disappointed that way.)

(I think a few of those 5th grade boys hang out in trees too.)

And remember kids:

But the best part happened toward the end of the day. For some reason Maggie's kindergarten buddy got revved up as the day went on. No, we didn't feed her Dippin' Dots or Gatorade or Fruit by the Foot. She just started movin' and groovin' as she got the hang of the zoo.

"Can we go see the zebras next?" And she'd run ahead.

"Hey! What's that over there?" More running ahead.

"Come on! Let's look at the aardvarks!"

Finally, Maggie just looked at me as her buddy ran on ahead, rolled her eyes and said, "Gee, Mom, now I know how you felt when we were little. It's tiring being a mom!"

To me, the day was a complete success.


  1. Given the location of our house, we almost don't go to Hawthorne. When we moved in, pregnant with our first, we had no idea what a wonderful choice we'd made. God's providence led us to the "little school with the big heart."

  2. I loved the 5th grade buddies, too, when we were there. I went on that field trip with my son 4 years ago when he was in Kindergarten and it was really fun -- except I do remember the bus (and feeling claustrophobic) and the little ones falling asleep on the way back! It is a wonderful school! So glad you could go today. I've been enlisted last minute for 2 field trips next week and with your encouragement, I'll look forward to it! :-)

  3. I look forward to more Hawthorne stories - we like this room in your brain so carry on!