My first day at L.A. Parent was in 2017 — a year that, in many ways, feels like another era. In our cocooned imaginations, global viruses were the stuff of sci-fi movies and history. My son was still in elementary school, his voice still full of light and air. At least a dozen stuffed animals still hung out in his bedroom, though they were beginning to feel neglected. At 5 feet, 5 inches, I could still look down at the top of my son’s head.
Today, Sol towers over me even when I slip on my tallest heels. His voice is full of depth and boom (“Who’s that other man in my house?” my husband yells from his office). Sol grins. He is proud of his height and his baritone — and of the teeniest hint of peach fuzz peeping from his 14-year-old face. “Since I’m taller than lots of men, why do people who don’t know me still talk to me like I’m a kid? Why don’t they assume I’m a man?” he asked me one day. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his baby face is a dead giveaway. I pinched his cheek instead. “My chocolate-chip bunny,” I said. He rolled his eyes to the ceiling, then wrapped his arms around me. He is still my baby, I thought.
A couple of weeks ago, that “baby” started his first day of high school. On the morning of the first day, as he wolfed down his first-day-of-school breakfast, my husband and I stared at each other. We were too wired to sit down with him, choosing instead to sip our coffee and walk down memory lane while standing in the center of the kitchen. “Do you realize that in just four years, he’ll be a man?” my husband stated more than asked. “Really, just three years.”
“Yeah,” the kid piped, “because I can go into the military at 17.”
I shuddered. From the living room, I could see the TV. The volume was on low, but the images were explosive: footage of Afghans desperately trying to hold onto U.S. planes fleeing the country, where the Taliban seized control. And there was a flash of the devastation in once-again earthquake-torn Haiti. And reports on the rapidly rising cases of the Delta variant.
Everything feels like too much. Everything is too much. After breakfast, Sol stood in front of the TV for a couple of minutes. I watched sadness move across his face and realized he has aged in ways I cannot see. By the time we were headed out the door, though, his boyish energy was back. “Let’s do this!” he said. His optimism was contagious, and we grinned as we followed him to the car. He was stylish in his black and white ensemble and brand new backpack. I looked down at his hands. He was holding his mask, which has become an extra limb. For a kid who seems to forget everything, he never, ever forgets to grab a mask.
In this new school year, we are all carrying so much. I hope this month’s education and enrichment issue lightens your load a bit. We’ve included a story on what schools are doing to ensure the safety of our kids and educators in this second year of a pandemic, as well as loads of resources to help you keep the excitement of learning at the center, including how to fall in love with math as a family, great programs offering arts education and innovative ways to partner with teachers and our local universities.
Have a safe and happy 2021-22 school year.
Cassandra Lane is Editor in Chief of L.A. Parent.