We certainly have moved a long way from what I remember as my first day at school. A parent had to be there the first day to enrol us. We got dressed in the new school uniform and posed at the door of the house before heading off to school.
I do not think that has changed very much, I think that still happens. My mother took me to school that first morning my friend who lived next door was with me with his mother. A new experience indeed. We were enrolled and met our teacher and school began. At about eleven, after a bottle of rather watery milk the bell rang and we were all let out of the class. My friend john and I headed home, even although it was in fact only play time. When we eventually got home you can imagine the reception, we were promptly marched right back to school. Our parents wanted to hear nothing of how boring it all was, or how much we preferred being out and about.
The next day, we were left to find our own way to school, with the stern reminder we were there until lunch time. There was no school run. No large gathering of parents at the school gate waiting to escort us home. Going to school was a rite of passage and there was a certain amount of trust there.
It wasn't that our parents were uncaring, they knew when we would be home and they would most certainly be out looking for us if the time exceeded too much.
I read the other day of a head teacher writing to parents asking them to do two things. The first would some parents please stop arriving at the school gates in pyjamas and dressing gowns. They obviously did not have to come far and I am sure the children would learn more by heading there on their own. The second thing was would some parents please stop smoking cannabis at the school gate. I leave that one with no comment.
I think there was a wisdom in allowing youngsters to spread their wings with a watchful eye.
I remember my daughter with her shopping trolly heading off to the little local shop for the Monday treat. Monday was my day off and we had a little sweet treat on a Monday afternoon. Yes she went to the shop alone but unbeknown to her I phoned the shop and they kept and eye out for her crossing the road.
This reminds me of the story of the Cherokee Indian rite of passage.
His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.
He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone.
Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.
He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.
The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises.
Wild beasts must surely be all around him.
Maybe even some human might do him harm.
The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!
Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.
It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.
Life is like a rite of passage for all of us.
We, all need at some point to make some difficult steps. But it is good to know that we have friends and family, sitting on the stump beside us.
When trouble comes, and things get difficult we need somebody to reach out to. We also can be the person that sits on the stump for others. Allowing them the freedom to be and to make mistakes, but to know they can reach out if need be and you will be there.
A friend does not need to make every journey or be constantly there. They need to be sitting on the stump ready when needed.