Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Day of School

I just posted a note of encouragement to a friend sending her son to a formal school as opposed to the more flexible home school environment she had lovingly provided for the last few years. Let me tell you about our start in new environments here.

At my son's school, a Boo Hoo Breakfast is hosted for parents of new kindergartners on the first day. While parents are thrilled children are growing and progressing, it is hard to leave children, children who were once babes who could curl up on your chest as vulnerable newborns, in what might become a Lord of the Flies scenario. Of course, wisdom prevails and we push ourselves out the door. The wee folk become engaged in happy activity led by a loving and firm instructor, and school becomes routine. Things are ok. The first day though, particularly for mothers, is hard.

My son is little. When he holds my hand to walk along side me, his hand is up to reach mine. He is pint-sized, snack-sized. His backpack is almost as big as he is. We walked to school from where I had parked, his hand in mine, my free hand sheltering us with an umbrella. His yellow rainboots flashed in the puddles. His excitement about school wore off by the time we entered the packed building, other parents also escorting new folk to new classrooms. Tiny hung his backpack and jacket on the notch near his name. He looked absolutely uncertain. I hugged him, kissed him once, took in his sweet young child smell, and turned. I didn't attend the parent breakfast because I was already late for work. My impulse had been, though, to clutch him to my chest and run hundreds of kisses up his neck, to take him to work with me so he could sit in my lap. But I didn't. I did the right thing. And he was fine.

Earlier that morning, I drove our daughter to school for her start in sixth grade. I pulled up to the corner and suddenly she froze. "Come with me," she said, "The seventh graders are so big." We parked and I walked with her until she stopped at the steps before the building. She hesitated, tried to speak, and faltered. She had realized no moms were entering the building. Finally she decided she could walk in on her own. I hugged her with as little fuss as possible and watched her, the backpack bouncing with her steps. Her newness would include a nearly entirely new student body of older kids (but some were friends from her old school last year), changing classes, learning how to open a locker with a combination, increasing hormones, crushes on boys, and greater exposure to pop culture. Our relationship over the last week has evolved simply from the fact that she is now allowed greater independence. I am trying to let go of certain things and trust her with  more responsibility. I sit at work and fret that she, who lives on her own planet, will be distracted and get hit by a car crossing the street on the way to her after-care program. Surprisingly though, this week her own growing awareness warned me of safety.

"Step aside, Mom," she said as we walked on the sidewalk to school mid-week. The streets here have been heavy with accumulated rainfall. I looked at her to see why she would ask that and was simultaneously drenched by a car that, at full speed, hit a puddle near the curb. The rolls had been reversed. My daughter had anticipated an event and prepared for it; she was dry.

For those of us that have shuttled our young ones off to school this month, we celebrate and mourn simultaneously. I can enjoy the knowledge that my son thinks his school is so big because he is so small and his feet make at least two steps to my one. I get to share the thrill of my daughter's meeting new friends, accomplishing good work. She is going to school with all kinds of kids in the artsy environment of this historic town, a good lesson for her.

We're doing ok.


  1. FWIW, I doubt a more beautiful description of two beautiful children's first days at new schools has ever been written.

  2. My bet, RSS feeds are too hard for the average person to figure out. There are lots of Facebook mutual friends that could learn from your writing. I came really close to moving on and deleting everything. The joke, photo or email of the day is getting booted around and copied too much. Having a friend with original thoughts they can put in words is refreshing and missed!


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