Every time I drop Moomin off at school I feel a sentimental pang as he walks away, looking so self-possessed and independent and alone, trundling his giant backpack on wheels. These days, he looks a bit cool and teenagery. Just a little.
I remember how acute that feeling was the first time I dropped him off at the bottom of the hill to walk into school himself, rather than going to the classroom door with him. And further back from that, it was so hard to drop him off at the very first day of school! So different from nursery school where I could drop in anytime and see what was going on. There he is, in a system completely separate from his parents, having experiences I will never know or understand.
That feeling hasn’t really changed though Moomin is in 6th grade. You’d think I’d be used to watching him walk away with his backpack and violin. He’s resolute and a bit wistful. Maybe this will sound silly, but I always think he looks heroic, in a way that no one else will notice but us. I admire him just for going to school every day, and working at it in the way that he does.
Last night I was sick with bronchitis and not able to read out loud. Moomin read to me instead from his book, Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce. It’s book 4 in the Protector of the Small series. In this series, Keladry becomes the first girl to enter knight school openly and she faces tough challenges to be accepted. She also is befriended by a flock of intelligent sparrows, a loyal dog, and an abused warhorse who won’t let anyone but her touch him. Though Moomin has read the first two books over and over, this is the first time he’s ventured beyond into books 3 and 4, where Kel grows up and becomes a knight.
Book 3 is notorious for its mention of magical birth control — Kel’s mom gives her a sex ed talk when she’s about 15 or 16 and tells her if she is dating boys she should go get a birth control charm. In Book 4, Lady Knight, a war starts and Kel gets her first independent command building and defending a refugee camp while giant necromantic robots attack.
So after Moomin read to me aloud, I sent him off to brush his teeth and get into his pajamas. He read by himself for a while longer and then called me in to say good night. Instead of just curling up for bed he was very, very excited and wanted to explain his thoughts on Kel’s command. Moomin always says that he isn’t a good leader. People sometimes want him to be in charge or make decisions, but he doesn’t like it. He likes to follow instead. We have talked a bunch about how, if that’s so, it’s important to know what makes a good leader, so you can decide who to follow!
Moomin explained to me that he thought Kel’s speech to the new refugee camp, as she took command, was amazingly great. She was firm about being the leader, but she wasn’t conceited. She explained how she was young, but had seen battle before. She said she was willing to listen to everyone, to show that she was fair. She used humor, a little bit, so that people would laugh. And she kept it short, so that people wouldn’t be bored. Then, she was lucky enough that one of her former enemies, a former bandit, stood up and said how tough she was in combat. That meant everyone knew she was tough, but she didn’t have to boast. Moomin was overcome with admiration for the way she handled the scary moment of taking command. I felt so proud of his analysis and insight!
I thought about that this morning as I dropped him off at school and watched him walk away, facing his long school day like a small hero. I thought about how kids judge their teachers’ competence and leadership, and their own.
That’s all! Just an ordinary morning!