Wholes in New School Clothes


Eric C. Butler

It is the first day of school after a long summer. Well, in some cases, not long enough. As a parent and a mentor, I am excited. I watched my own two teenage boys prepare for the first day of school in anticipation. In my house, as well as on campus, I see fresh haircuts… fresh J’s (those are those New Jordan’s)…fresh gear (pants and shirts)… fresh new backpacks…nothing stale…just as fresh as can be. I sometimes reminisce about those youthful days and how I felt on that first day back at school.

Swag is on 10 for everyone.

There is a buzz in the air. I wonder if we could implement this feeling at work. Never mind. However, as I take in all of this there seems to be something missing that might not be noticeable from the outside. Some of the children entering this new school year have “wholes” in the new school clothes. No, not the holes that are now a part of the landscape of the $100 plus jean craze, but psychological “holes.”

Many children attending school daily as an escape from life.

From the outside we see many of them as they enter campus with a “happy” face for six or seven periods a day for nine months. However, some of them are not whole. This is not about the child that is homeless, but attends school daily. This is not about the child that attends school for the meals; this is not about the child who attends school for the academic excellence daily. This is about the child that attends school, and has no deposits of self-esteem, self-worth or self-efficacy. This is the child that is no longer “whole.”

What does that child look like? It could be my children. It could be your children, or it could be any child on campus. When I speak of this, I no longer talk of the hundreds of dollars of materialistic investment as they walk around looking like walking advertisements. I speak of the internal investment of our children.

Where does the drop-off begin?

No, not sitting in the car pool lane with your yoga pants, flip flops and cap on, but the drop-off in the needed investment of love. While I am a strong believer that adolescents are picked up at 12 and dropped off at 13 by a force outside of this world, they are still in need of an “I love you.” As parents we take time out when they are very young to provide reassurance, nourishment, and encouragement. We shower them with praise, hugs, belief. When do we cut that switch off? At a point, maybe entrance into middle school, we now have expectations. They are no longer babies and are part Martian, we often times forget that we have to continue to make them whole. They are still works in progress.

A budding 13 year old may be a Mr. or Miss Know It All, but they are still children. Some of these children have never experienced what it is like to be loved. We assume because it is the new school year and they are fresh that all is well. They may be going home to a very stale, if not toxic environment. Sociologist and psychologist have noted that the average child needs at least 12 hugs a day to stay whole. Eight is maintenance, 12 is growth. Ponder those numbers for a moment.

When was the last time you hugged your child/children 8-12 times a day?

When was the last time you yourself received a hug or two? Now, imagine those on the first day of school that have no way for this positive reinforcement. So, this school year as we prepare to parent, mentor, instruct or volunteer take time out to look at the beauty of those that are beginning the new school year. While some may not have had the opportunity to get fresh new gear over the summer, they all have a fresh slate where you can add some patchwork if needed.

While a simple statement like “I love you” might not seem like a lot for you to give, for a child this might be the positive reinforcement that they get all year. While a simple gesture like a hug might now seem like a lot for you to give, hugs produce oxytocin which is the same euphoric release as Oxycontin, a prescription drug used for pain management. So, your simple hug and words could be the patch in what might be a “whole” in new school clothes this year.


Eric C. Butler

Eric C. “EB” Butler is an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, husband, father and former captain in the U.S. Army.

One Comment

  1. Excellent and insightful piece of writing EB! You’ve nudged me to pay closer attention to young kids, including family members that are entering the school year. Honestly I was one of those kids that had holes (not the fashionable kind), but had parents & a close circle of 2 friends that made me whole. This literally brought back memories of 5th grade. 1st day of school, still wearing torn off shoes, second hand clothes, but a heart full of hope and excitement to rejoin friends. I vow this will never be my kids’ experience, but it did teach me about hard work, humility, and the power of love & friendship. Thanks again for uncovering the good ole days for me & many others I’m sure.

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