Lessons learned this school year

Another school year in the books. Hallelujah! (This is the time parents everywhere are praising whatever higher power they believe in).

Your kids did it, parents! And so did you — because we all know that even in middle school and high school (but hopefully not by college) you are doing some serious pushing kids toward the finish line.

For some kids, it’s helping to keep track of all the assignments or all the things they are supposed to bring to school each day.

For other kids, it’s reminding them to breathe and eat and sleep occasionally. Each kid has a moment at least once a week that reminds us why we’re needed.

Travis Bradley and Julian Gonzalez run for the bus. Remember that first day of school? Doesn’t it seem like a distant memory? DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each school year, my kids always learn a lot — from U.S. history to calculus, physics to chicken-raising — but they, and their teachers also teach me a lot.

Here’s what I learned this year — their eighth-grade and 11th-grade years:

  • Even kids that seem to be really confident are very awkward and self-conscious at these ages.
  • They are still like puppies that haven’t grown into their feet. They’re trying out things, but they’re constantly tripping up over themselves.
  • Their best-laid-plans always seem to have a hitch or two in them.
  • They have to want to succeed. You can’t make them succeed, which is really, really hard.
  • It’s really hard to watch them stumble, but you have to let them and hope that it’s not something that has lasting consequences.
  • Middle-school friendships and romances have more twist and turns in them than any TV soap opera. Just when you think you’ve figured out all the alliances, you’re wrong, Mom.
  • I used to worry that my kids would never ever be dating. Now I’m worried that my kid is dating too much. No one, not even my son, could have seen this one coming. Even late-bloomers blossom.
  • Kids are never going to be who you think they are. They are always surprising us with how their likes and dislikes can change so quickly.

    Benjamin Villalpando holds up his learners permit after getting it last week. Nicole Villalpando/Austin

  • College may not be for everyone, yet life-skills are hard to come by. We’re having to work at these. Laundry? Check. Driving? Not yet. Cooking? Dear God.
  • Some teachers really get your kids. Some teachers desperately want to but just don’t. Others don’t even try. The good ones help us all get through the school year. They will sit in a car with your child and get her to smile, and then laugh, and then help her climb out of that car, walk into the building and start the day — even if that process might take 30 minutes some days.
  • Good teachers will meet your child where he’s at and take him farther than he ever thought he could go and make it fun, interesting and exciting. Calculus is apparently fun. Who knew?
  • No one’s kid is perfect. Even that kid who is on every A-team of sports and has all A’s and has no pimples. Even they have something they are struggling with. Don’t believe the Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
  • Every kid should get to take an off-the-wall kind of class for fun. My kid watched “Hitchcock” movies for a grade, and, you know what, he learned a lot — and not just about films. He learned about human nature and cinema and history.
  • All kids are bullied. All kids have been bullies in some way. Kids can be terrible people.

    Ava Villalpando holds Georgia, her new favorite chicken. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

  • Just when you think your kid has become hardened by school, they do something completely empathetic and go out of their way to help someone else. My kid gave her lunch to a homeless woman because she said she could always wait until she got home to eat. Then she made me take one of the school’s chickens to the vet and now comes to school twice a day even on the weekends to give this chicken antibiotics. Every kid has that thing that lights a fire under them. You just never know when and how it will happen.
  • We sweat so much of the small stuff every day… when really, that homework assignment didn’t matter as much as we thought it did in the grand scheme of things. (Just don’t tell my kids. They probably still need to get something done and turn something in).
  • My kids learn so much more than will ever be on any standardized test they will take. The good stuff stays with them and is the least-likely-to-be-on-a-standardized-test kind of information.
  • Before kids could text, how did we ever know when and where they were going to be after school. Plans can change from one minute to the next. You just have to keep up, Mom.
  • You can make yourself crazy looking at the online grading system. Kids can go from F to A in 10 seconds flat. My kid did. I had to stop looking except once a week. One day, maybe I’ll stop looking entirely.
  • No matter how stocked up you think you are on school supplies, your kids always need the one thing you are out of and they needed it at 9 p.m. for the next day.
  • Every day requires some serious deep breaths.
  • Every day requires some serious standing over beds and telling people that they actually have to leave these beds.
  • Every day requires some sort of reminder to go to bed at the end of the day.
  • The school year is a rat race that never seems like it will end, and then it’s over, and you get nostalgic about it. They will never be in that grade again. (Cue the tears.)
  • That backpack that they are bringing home today is disgusting. It probably has crumbs from September in it. It might just need to go in the trash, but, of course, it probably will sit wherever it is that they leave it today until August.

    Remember those new backpacks at the beginning of the school year? They are probably now gross. 
    RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Have a fabulous summer vacation! You’ve earned it, parents.

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Share your favorite lesson of the school year by leaving a comment below.


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