It’s that ‘dreaded’ time of year—time to get ready to go back to school.
Returning to school—whether elementary, high or beyond—has always filled me with an impending sense of doom. So early to get up! So much work to do! So many tests to write!
When I married my teacher husband and had my school-averse son, the end of summer always provoked the same feelings.
“Do we have to go back to school ALREADY?!”
Summer always flew by and the dreaded day that the back-to-school commercials would start advertising backpacks and duo-tang folders always sent ripples of fear through our household.
But since we adopted our daughter from China five years ago, my tune has changed.
You see, in China, not all of the kids get to go to school.
The one-child policy (which started being phased out in 2015) meant that the first born in each family could go to school. But if you were the second, third or fourth child and your family didn’t have a truckload of money, you were out of luck.
If you had that second child, they were deemed a ‘non-person.’ That meant, the second child didn’t legally exist. They had no Chinese equivalent of a social insurance number. They could not get health care. And…they COULD NOT go to school.
If my adopted daughter Journey had stayed in China, she would have been a non-person. She wouldn’t have had to worry about the first-day-of-school jitters because she wouldn’t be going. Her parents wouldn’t have had to buy her a backpack or duo-tang folders because she wouldn’t have needed them…ever. She would not have been allowed to learn anything!
And then there was my child’s orphanage buddy, Mei Chen. She definitely wouldn’t have been allowed to go to school. Not only was she deemed a ‘non-person’ but she had Down Syndrome and as such would have been kept in an orphanage forever. No parents. No school.
So when last September rolled around and my daughter, Journey, started Kindergarten, we celebrated. I soaked up every ounce of ‘back-to-school’ sentiment I could. I took her ‘school shopping’ and bought her light-up runners, a unicorn backpack and a bright pink thermos.
Mei Chen was adopted by a USA family, so she started school on the exact same day as Journey did. Her Wisconsin family sent me photos of her first day—she had a spiffy orange dress on, a bow in her hair and a backpack strapped across her adorable little shoulders.
This year Journey is headed into Grade 1 and that same joyous celebration of her opportunity to go to school will continue in our household. We will buy coloured pencils, we will get good runners and we will walk her to school daily with pride.
My girl gets to go to school. Mei Chen gets to go to school. Our girls GET TO go to school!
Each start to the school year, when our beautiful, smart, worthy girls get to receive an education, I get the same gooey feeling on my insides.
And I sometimes even cry because these girls GET TO go to school.
I also cry for all of the girls and all of the boys in this world who will NOT GET TO go to school.
This fall, if going to school becomes a chore for you or your kids, I encourage you to change a few words in your vocabulary. Change ‘HAVE TO’ to ‘GET TO’ and remind your kids that they are the lucky ones!
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