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Growing Up Bronx

First day of school.

We have all been through it, we remember the nerves, the anxiety, the first day of school. It’s no different today for our children than it was for us back then. I can see the tension and fear in my kid’s face as I drop him off at his new school. I do my best to calm him down and play down the situation, but the reality is that going to a new school is always tough for kids. He doesn’t admit it, and he tries to “play it off”, but I see through the facade and I know what he’s feeling.

Taking in the lay of the land,  I see a wide array of children from different walks of life. Some are pretty big kids, probably 8th graders, and possibly some that may have been held back at some point, either that or today’s 8th graders are freaking giants. I observe several groups of what I’d classify as “young punks”, you can see the mischief in their faces, the danger and trouble that they intend to cause. A few of them wear common colored necklaces, an indicator of possible allegiance to a group or a “gang”.  I find this troubling and humorous at the same time, what do these Forest Hills rich kids know about gangs? That being said, I realize that all the kids attending this school are not only the “Forest Hills” well off types, you have kids from surrounding neighborhoods and areas that are not very good in the mix as well. That’s not to say that kids from “bad” or “poorer” areas are bad kids, but they definitely get a different “street” education than those not facing the same challenges. I know this to be fact, because I have seen it with my very own eyes. In fact, I lived it myself. Finally you have kids like my son, just trying to make it through life and do the things they gotta do.

What is one to do as a parent though? I cannot sit around and protect my son, or advise him all day on how to handle things. I cannot pass to him my decades of street smarts and fighting skills. During the school day, he is pretty much on his own, and he needs to remember the things I have been able to teach him, and he needs to know that I have his back no matter what. So far, so good. I noticed one or two things here and there between a few punks, but seeing as though he has neither been jumped, robbed, or severely beaten up, he’s doing far better than I was when I entered Junior High School.

Day one I got jumped, apparently the kids at 147 didn’t like my face. I was immediately transferred to a new school after that violent encounter. Only to get jumped again on day 1 at the new school, 117, because my sneakers were “skippies”. The Bronx experience in public schools was quite different than it is in this section of Queens.

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