San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX, August 18, 2014 – I reluctantly acquiesced to the idea of becoming a parent over three stiff margaritas and some pretty impressive fourth of July fireworks. For the majority of the past eleven years I’ve felt a near-constant sense of mild, low-level panic, like I was somehow allowed to leave the hospital with a baby that I most assuredly had no idea how to raise. It’s funny how they let you just waltz in there, spend several hours in labor, eat a couple of bad meals, and leave the next day with a child. Despite my initial and on-going trepidation, being Wiley’s mom has taught me more about the human experience than anything else in my fairly eventful life, and he has been a complete joy and blessing to both of us.
This morning I dropped my only begotten son off for sixth grade. In this I’m not alone, as surely some of you did the same. My morning likely went a little differently than most parents, however, because I left my kid at a school that he has never been to before, and where he knows almost no one. He doesn’t even speak the language we predominantly heard walking through the courtyard to his classroom. He had very little idea what to expect about how his day, week, month, or year will unfold.
I thought about this as I sat down on a bench outside the school, once I had left. What have we done to him? Moved him out of his home, taken him away from his friends and activities, and plunked him down in a foreign country to live for a year. We have just assumed that he will adapt, but clearly there is no guarantee of this, and things could go seriously off the rails.
Despite this looming uncertainty, he didn’t seem nervous or upset. On our twenty-minute walk to school he joked and talked with me as if he had not a care in the world. Once in the classroom he hovered around, wandering from table to table. The other kids seemed to know each other quite well, and were plainly getting reacquainted after summer break. Eventually he found a boy he met at camp a few weeks back, and they sat down together at a table. He seemed completely at ease, or else he’s very good at faking it. I certainly felt anxious myself, listening to all of the interactions and conversations going on, Mexicans and ex-pats shifting easily between English and Spanish.
I’ve mentioned before that finding out about this school was one of the things that moved San Miguel to the top of the list when we were considering where to move. Since we’ve gotten here we’ve heard both positives and negatives about the school. It’s been in existence a little over two years, and it has been an overwhelming success as far as enrollment goes, but there have been growing pains. One person who was a very enthusiastic advocate of the school on our first visit has moved her child to another school, becoming frustrated with the Academia. Others we have talked to have been solidly pleased with the education their children have gotten. We have heard wonderful things about the sixth grade teachers (there are two teachers in Wiley’s class) and also about the kids themselves. Everyone we have worked with so far has been very responsive and helpful. We hope for the best.
When I picked Wiley up this afternoon, he remained cheerful and upbeat. The day had gone much as the first day of school does anywhere in the world, with the distributing of books and supplies (The Academia charges parents a “technology fee” and then provides each child with the necessary supplies, sparing parents the yearly scavenger hunt for specific items.), discussions about rules and dress code, and claiming of personal space. It was pointed out to him by a teacher that his footwear was unacceptable, which was a little difficult for a guy who is used to wearing flip-flops to weddings. He seems a little hesitant to make friends just yet, but he’s a confident kid and I’m sure that soon enough he’ll find his place and his people.
This journey has so far been a leap, for all of us. On a daily basis we’re all well outside our comfort zones, but none of us probably so much as Wiley. I admire his style, his fearlessness, and his joie de vie. He makes me proud.