Sometimes a little something demonstrates a big step. The smallest action that shows understanding, growth, maturity . There are things that kids need to learn and things that they need to be helped to learn – the years between 11 and 18 seem to incorporate so many changes, the real steps between childhood and adulthood. And whilst some of the changes will come about naturally as the body and mind develops, others will need to be teased out and encouraged.
There comes an age in a young person’s life (particularly I think if you’re a boy) when more and more you find adults extending their hand to you and that awkward embarrassing feeling of being neither adult nor child. A sense of feeling like you’re playing a game – let’s pretend we’re grown ups…..
Visiting my son’s new school a few weeks back, the teacher went to shake his hand and I saw all of this play out, he looked down at the floor, extended his hand and seemed to die inside from embarrassment. Later we talked about it, the history behind shaking hands, the importance of it in society, the fact that when someone extends their hand they are treating you as an equal…regardless of whether they are an adult or not. And you have a choice whether you want to step up and accept that.
Hold out your hand. Meet their eyes. Be confident.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later and I’m looking at the photos from the leavers’ assembly at his primary school. The end of the first stage of his life and of course the start of the next. I guess at that age it feels a little bit like your world is ending, everything that you know is being left behind and the future feels…..well unknown. A lot of the kids had tears in their eyes, including those from other classes, the tightness of the school community and the sense of family still amazes me.
At the end, the school presents each leaving child with a book that they have chosen as a reminder of their time there. One by one the children go up and meet the head teacher, receive the book and shake her hand. And there in the actions of the kids you can see everything that I’ve written about, awkwardness, extending the wrong hand, taking the book and not shaking the hand.
But then I see a photo, that makes me smile, but brings a tear to my eye. The boy, hand out stretched, making eye contact, confident.
Sometimes a little something demonstrates a big step. The boy is growing up.