The Difference Between a Second Grader and a Third Grader

I stood at the side of the building, waiting for my second grader to emerge from the building instantly transformed, as she stepped through the portal, into a third grader. According to all laws of camps, schools, and summer programs, you are whatever grade you are going into, so once you have officially completed 2nd grade, you are no longer a 2nd grader. While you may not have actually started the 3rd grade yet, you are counted among the 3rd graders, for lack of a better term, despite being in no term at all.

She did not come out the side door, as she usually has done, so I wandered into the classroom, looking for my daughter, or any signs of her. I saw the desks covered with water bottles, papers, and various other objects that convinced me the children would be returning to their classroom before exiting the building, so I went back outside to wait at the side door. That was when she came running around from the front of the building, ready for summer.

We walked home, chattering away about the last day of school and where we should go for a celebratory lunch, but when we arrived home there was a problem. She came pouring out of the house in tears, because she had left her brand new water bottle on her desk at school. And of course I had seen it there earlier, but in all the confusion about where I was supposed to be, it had slipped my mind. And now school was over. For the summer. We had to go back.

Edward was tearing around on his bike with his friends, not wanting to go anywhere, and I had the dog in my hand. Trying to walk back to the school again, against the flow of vacation-bound children, with a puppy and a reluctant kindergartener on a bike, was going to be a logistical nightmare. And that’s when it hit me. 3rd graders are allowed to walk back and forth to school by themselves. And Ruby was now a 3rd grader, despite being a 2nd grader who was not allowed to do such a thing only moments before. So I sent her back on her own.

As she ran off excitedly towards the school, which is less than a block away from our house (but around a corner and out of sight), I felt very proud and happy. We were entering a new chapter in our lives, one in which she had more freedom and responsibility, and I was ready for it. And then about 30 seconds later I started freaking out.

What had I done?! Semantics be damned, I had just sent my 2nd grader off by herself into the unknown world and there was a 99% chance that she was already dead. I had to go after her.

No. Going after her would show a lack of faith on my part, and she would see that I did not trust her to go literally around the corner. I had to stay and wait. It was for both of our goods.

As the minutes passed, I started inching my way towards the sidewalk, trying to peek around to see if I could catch a glimpse of my returning child. But she was not returning. She should have been back by now. Okay, that did it. I had to go after her, to rescue her from the traffic accident/abduction/terrorist attack/post-apocalyptic nuclear armageddon that she had clearly succumbed to. Our neighbor Mecca was walking back that way, and I saw my chance. I glommed on to her and offered to walk Mecca to wherever she was going, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for Ruby.

We were only halfway to the crossing guard when I saw my daughter running down the sidewalk, water bottle in hand. She had made it. I quickly explained to her that I was just walking Mecca to her car, for her own protection, and that I was not checking up due to lack of confidence.

The delay in return had been caused by the fact that the school was locked, and nobody was in the office to let Ruby in, because summer. Once she was finally inside she got her water bottle back, much to the relief of her teacher who was busy cleaning up all the other water bottles that had been left behind, and then dashed back so that we could go to lunch. Everything worked out just fine, as I clearly knew it would when I made my original superior parenting decision, and we all went to Moe’s for burritos and ice cream. Me, Edward, and my 3rd grader. I’m so ready for this.

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