Home > Community Engagement, Parenting & Family > …Just When You Think

…Just When You Think

Photo by Peter Harrison

“We learn not in the school, but in life.”      ~Seneca~

The quote above speaks to me in a personal way. So much so that I think that when my wife and I named our first-born, we should have chosen Seneca, rather than Peter. Though the epic stubbornness of his biblical namesake does seem appropriate enough to describe our not-so-young boy.

Our son is a very practical, logical and articulate young man who has lots of questions and is not afraid to ask them and cares not to whom he directs these questions. His schooling years are best represented as a roller coaster, with his disposition entirely based on how ‘real’ (his word) the learning environment is. As you can predict, his mother and I have been in the coaster car with him for over 10 years, up and down and around, often screaming.

For a young man who has such an ambivalent relationship with school~ recently he expressed that we could ask for “high marks or no lates, but not both”~ the events of the past few days have been a little world-rocking for him. One of his friends, after a life-long battle, passed away, leaving an immediate wake of tears and despair for all who knew him, our son included.

After a phone call to his dad, Peter headed off to school to be with his friends and the caring adults who work there. And, with his friends, they mourned in all the ways that we mourn a great loss. It’s hard to see the rangy, restless young men who occupy your kitchen and empty your pantry reduced to the little boys you remember from kindergarten, but life has a way of doing that.

I’m grateful to the staff at our town high school, Keswick High School and the many among my colleagues who left their schools to support as members of our district’s Tragic Events Response Team. Mostly, I’m grateful to Bruce Richard, the Student Success Teacher (and hockey coach) at KHS for the way he helped support my son and his rangy friends as they tried to process the difficult reality that they had lost their dear friend.

Just when you think schools are failing,  just when you think we  are losing our sense of why public schools are so essential, or just when you think, as a parent, your child has lost his sense of why school matters; life jumps out at and reminds you. School is not where we learn about ‘life’, for our kids and the adults who work with them; school is life, or at least, a big part of it.

  1. June 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    A beautiful post Brian and a great reminder that we need to continue to reinforce the value of schools as institutions in our community and look for ways to fortify those community connections on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing in this difficult time for your family.

    • June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks Blair. I wanted to express my appreciation for the wonderful way the school staff have responded and how it has helped our son cope with this loss. I can’t even imagine how the family of his friend are feeling.

  2. June 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    What a powerful post, Brian! I’m in tears now as I write this comment to you. My thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time. I can’t even imagine coping with the loss of a child, and I really feel for your son that is trying to cope with the loss of a friend. I’m so glad that the school is there to support him and the other students as they deal with this terrible loss. A big virtual hug to all of you!

    Aviva

  3. June 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Brian. Really touched my heart.

    • Teresa Wilkie
      June 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      I read your words and once again was reminded of how these sad events shake us, and then, we must face what is really important to us. I do not wish to take away the loss your son, friends and families are feeling, but my sister’s son lost a wonderful friend to cancer in December when he was in highshool. (I don’t exactly recall which grade) Her son had a group of friends that supported each other after their friend’s death. Her son was a particularly close friend and the loss of his friend had a strong impact on her son in the years that followed. The group of friends did some cancer fundraising relay races together in the first few years and they all go to the parent’s house for an annual Christmas party. It keeps the memory of their friend alive and this generous family gets to see how the young men that were the same age have grown and changed. I was impressed by the support they found in each other, but any loss has profound and unpredictable affects. Professional support workers can assist people, but we all face our own grief in different ways. May you and your family find the peace and strength you need for this journey.

  4. Laurie Renton (@RentonL)
    June 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I hear you on SO many levels, Brian. The “roller coaster” ride with a teenage boy … in the coaster car “up and down and around, often screaming”. The utter sadness/helplessness/gut wrenching worry of helping your child to cope with grief at a young age. Most of us are fortunate enough to live life thinking that we are “indestructible” WELL into our twenties, untouched by such tragedies. Bless the adults within your son’s school for believing, first and foremost, that relationships are KEY and for being able to “see” through the “rangy” and into the core of our “children”. Bless the family who has lost their son … I pray that they find strength in the people around them. Thank you for sharing such a heart heavy post with beauty, insight and gratitude for the relationships. Laurie

  5. Heather Jelley
    June 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Oh Brian, hug your son, wipe away his tears and listen, listen, listen to his heart. Both our sons have lost great friends, and as you know our youngest lost a dear friend right at the end of his last year in high school. His grief went deeper than even we realized at the time as he searched for some kind of closure. It is the hardest life lesson that one can endure and we appreciated all the support our son got from friends and colleagues at his school. Our thoughts and prayers to your son and your family.

  6. Angie Harrison
    June 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Our son, Peter came home with his ball cap embroidered RIP and his friend’s name. The group of boys also designed Tshirts and had them printed. It was so awesome yet sad, watching him show these items and talk about the significance of the numbers and words on the shirt. The shirts and hats are a way for the boys to put their feelings into actions. Tomorrow he plans on getting to school early, which hasn’t happened all year. 😉 He will be selling and taking orders for the shirts. I know this small act won’t take away the family’s grief but it certainly will remind them that their boy was special and touched a lot of lives. Without the adults at the school guiding the group and supporting them, I’m not sure the kids would have seen this project through. Schools are communities and we need to respond as community members who rally around each other.
    Angie Harrison

  7. June 14, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Wow… What matters most in education? We teach so much more than curriculum.
    Wishing all the best for your family, especially your son and his friends.

    Thanks for this Brian.

    • June 15, 2012 at 12:06 am

      Thanks to each of you for your kind responses.

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