from Carolyn Whitson’s flickr

My oldest is halfway through high school. It really hit me as I’ve watched seniors doing things for the last time. We’ve only got two years and this will be us. (That’s a good thing. She is amazing and she will do wonderful things in the world beyond her high school and our home. That is as it should be. I don’t actually want to change it. Which doesn’t stop it from being hard.)

I realized that two years goes awfully quickly for me now. A year is only 1/45 of my life. That’s not a significant amount of time. For my girl, it’s 1/15 of her life. Still not huge but so much larger than it is for me.

Thinking about this got me thinking about my students. Most of them are nine. A year is still more than ten percent of their lives. That’s a lot of time. A summer, which I know will fly by for me, looms large for them. For some that’s exciting. It’ll be a time of travel or summer camps or time at the pool with family and friends. For others, it won’t be that.

This isn’t something that is decided by income level or religion or race or language or anything. There are so many factors in how a young person views time away from school (just as there are for how a young person views school). And I know that summer is a gift for some students and a challenge for others (one of my daughter’s friends comes to mind). I just hadn’t considered how long or short a summer can feel, depending on one’s age. It may seem shorter to a high schooler, even one who is dreading it, than it does to a second grader.

Not only is this impacted by one’s age and how much shorter a year feels as you get older, but also by knowledge of what you have already survived. A 16 year old who has made it through multiple summers with food instability or abusive family or other challenges, may have a better sense of their ability to make it through this one than a younger child who doesn’t yet have that history.

None of that should suggest this is okay. If we have children, of any age, who are dreading summer because their family doesn’t have the resources to provide enough food for everyone or because they must care for younger siblings full time due to lack of other child care or because they are emotionally or physically abused by someone, that is on us.

A society that does not ensure children are cared for, safe, loved, is a society that is failing.

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