Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Daily Walk


If the weather permits, every day after school Benjamin and I go for a walk or run.  Much like our drives to and from school, this is an opportunity for us to talk about whatever is on his mind.

Sometimes it can be the trivial, such as which Little Debbie Snack Cake is better: Swiss Cake Roll (my favorite) or Zebra Cake (his).

Sometimes we talk about the adoption and what is the first thing each of us will say to the child we're going to adopt.

Other times he will ask me deep theological questions, often with the preface, "Why does God allow . . .?"

Yesterday he had to write a book report on To Kill A Mockingbird, the book he chose after having seen the film a few months ago.  As we're walking along the path of the park where we like to walk, we started talking about why Harper Lee chose Scout to be the narrator of the novel instead of Atticus.  "You see the story through her eyes, " Benjamin tells me, "because you have to see how she changes."

"What do you mean?" I ask him, curious to know his reason for saying this.

"Because Scout and Jem go from being afraid of Boo to being afraid for their dad's safety and seeing how violent and cruel the people in their town can be."

I was glad that my son had picked up on Harper Lee's picking a child as a narrator so she can show the process by which the children go from being scared of an imagined threat (Boo Radley) to realizing a true one (the violence and racism that lies within the people of their town).  Also by doing this, the novel portrays the loss of innocence that comes in childhood.

The conversation then turned to a friend of Benjamin's who goes to another school.

He was friends with this girl when they were both in elementary school.  When it came time for middle school, we got Benjamin into a charter school while this girl went to a public one.  At first, Benjamin was angry with us for "tearing" him away from the friends he'd gone to school with since he was little, but we knew it was the right choice since the public school was doing poorly.  Earlier this week I got a call from the girl's parents asking about what we thought about the charter school.  After I told them how happy we were with the school, they told me how their daughter is being bullied, feels isolated and alone, and about how her grades are slipping.  The school has been unresponsive when they've tried to talk to both teachers and principals.  When I told Benjamin all about this, he was upset.

"Why do kids have to bully other kids?" he asked.

"Because they feel insecure about themselves.  If they don't like something about themselves then they hide that by picking on someone else."

Benjamin started telling me about how the popular kids at his school talked about each other and how he hated it when kids talked bad about other kids.  "I don't want to be popular if it means I have to talk badly about others."

This was followed by who was dating whom and what boy kissed a girl in their art class.

And as he's talking, I realize that he's a tween soon on his way to being a teenager.  His interests are beginning to change, such as he's watching less and less of PBS Kids (a transition that's happening since he is talking about how shows like "Curious George" aren't as good as they used to be, though he quickly adds that he still likes "Arthur").  Although when we're at Target he still wants to go look in the toy department, he spends less time there than in the electronics department.  His Christmas lists no longer contain toys but things like smart phones, an iPad, and a laptop(which makes me miss when he asked for toys - partially because it is soooo much cheaper).

Each time we take one of these walks, I see more and more how Benjamin is growing up.  There's still the child in him, but he's outgrowing childish things.  Thinking about this and about what we had said about To Kill a Mockingbird, I realize that he is losing his childhood innocence.  And he's having to deal with issues at a much earlier age than I had to, which means we have had some discussions about sex.  But I'm hoping that as he makes the transition to teenager that our walks and our talks continue so that he can be reminded that he is not making it alone, that I'm here for him, if only to listen to what he has to say about his day.


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