New school, new experiences

Changing schools was tough for a young Chris Hunt. Decades later, his son potentially faces the same situation

Riley Hunt, on his first day of Grade 3_Photo Credit Angela Jacques


I was a pretty good kid growing up. I mean, there was that time I ran away from home with blatant disregard for my parents’ concern for me.  At least that’s the way my dad told the story to my mom when she got home.

The truth was, I went on an adventure with my best friend to see Hog’s Back Falls.  What I didn’t realize when I left, was that I didn’t know exactly where that waterfall was.  I thought it was basically across the street from my house (we found it a very brief three hours later).

When I got home, my dad was sitting at the kitchen table, shaking. He was so mad, he couldn’t speak.  I don’t recall how long I was grounded for, but it was the most trouble I‘d ever been in. That is, until the year my family moved.

I was about eight years old and we moved in the middle of the school year to a neighborhood that was clear across the city.

I didn’t take to my new school very well.  At my previous school, I was a teacher’s pet of sorts.  I was naturally polite and got good grades. 

For some reason, I had trouble fitting in at my new school. I was constantly getting into trouble.  I’d bicker with other kids and I wouldn’t pay attention during lectures.

This one time, I started talking just as the class was about to watch a movie. My punishment was imprisonment beneath the teacher’s desk.  I had to stay there while he sat at the back of the room and watched the movie with everyone else. 

I was traumatized by the jarring change of the move and I didn’t know how to handle it.  The loss of everything familiar frightened me, and there was nothing I could do about it. The worst part about being a kid is feeling helpless. 

Fortunately, I had some great support from my school, and I eventually sorted myself out. In fact, I had forgotten about the whole ordeal until recently. 

We bought a new house this summer, about 800 meters from my son’s school.  It’s a great school — they developed an individualized educational plan for him, and he’s exploded scholastically.

Prior to moving, it took me about 25 minutes to walk him to school.  From the new house, it would take me less than five, but unfortunately, we learned that according to school boundaries, he has to attend a school almost two kilometers away. 

We’ve applied for a transfer, but it’s not guaranteed. Even if he’s accepted, he’d possibly still have to start the year at his new school until everything is finalized.

Under normal circumstances, this would be difficult for many kids. It’s doubly difficult after enduring a year governed by the uncertainty of COVID-19.

In short, my boy has been acting out.

He’s been picking at himself.  Terribly.  From a distance, it looks like he has smallpox.  Up close, the picked patches are inflamed and bloody.

We didn’t realize what the underlying issue was until one afternoon when we were talking about potential daycare plans for the new school.  A few moments later, we noticed he’d shredded his arms. 

It clicked at that moment.  He told us he didn’t realize he was picking.  He was thinking about his new school, he said.

We’ve explained that nothing is certain yet, and that a new school means new friends.  There’s also the chance that he’d be in a class with one of his oldest friends. It didn’t help.

He feels helpless, and —even though I know things will work out either way — so do I.