I’m fond of the saying “everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” Of course there are other good things to know like how to drive, cook a good meal, and earn a living, but for the most part that first year of school covers the basics you need for life.

We are fortunate to live in a great school district with a supportive, involved community.  Our son got an AMAZING teacher – of the award winning variety. He liked school and learned all of those good things you’re supposed to as a youngster. He also learned a few things that I wish he hadn’t.

#1 It didn’t take long for him to find out that not all kids are nice. Up until this point he hadn’t experienced this disappointing reality. One morning before school he nearly had a panic attack at the thought of getting on the bus. I’d never seen him in such distress. After much questioning, he told me that some kids on the bus were mean, one particular boy was especially mean. While my son hadn’t been singled out, picked on, or bullied himself,  just seeing it happen to others was unsettling.

#2 One night at bedtime, our son said he had something to tell me and he was afraid I wasn’t going to like it. He proceeded to tell me that the dad of a friend had killed himself. His little friend had confided this on their short bus ride home from school. This boy’s behavior was disruptive in school and I had concerns about their friendship. Now it made so much sense. My heart sank at the news. I struggled to explain to a kindergartener what no one really understands about suicide.

#3 Over the course of the school year he also learned not all families are happy and whole. Young kids – little, sweet, innocent kids trying to figure out where they fit and belong as they split time between homes and caregivers.

These are hard lessons at any age, but seem unnecessary ones at the age of five. Nonetheless, there are lessons to be learned. I’m an optimist and a believer, so we took these opportunities to look for the good.

#1 Not all people are kind. That stinks. Look for the ones that are. Seek out the smile in the crowd, better yet be the smile in the crowd. Use the buddy system, find someone who is nice and stick together.

#2 Sometimes something really bad happens and their is no good explanation for it. When my son shared the suicide news with me, he said he thought I would want to pray for his friend. Yes, indeed. My heart filled with joy and a sense of relief, because sometimes praying is all we can do and knowing that is an immensely valuable lesson.

#3 Family doesn’t look the same for everyone. I’m a big fan of the traditional family and feel blessed that our son has his parents together. However, sometimes that isn’t the case. Sometimes parents love their children, but not each other. Sometimes people have trouble just taking care of themselves and can’t do more. Families come in different forms: single parent, traditional, adopted, blended, foster, and combinations there of. The thing all families hopefully have in common is love.

What hard lessons did your kids learn at an early age?