Start of School

Staples aired a great commercial in August and September. As an adult male dances through the store’s aisle gathering school supplies, Andy William’s Christmas classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays. Genius.

By the time the September rolls around I, for one, am done with attending to my children’s needs, trying repeatedly to teach them skills so that they can feed themselves and thus leave me alone. Yes, I’m a mother. But I am also a wife, a friend, an administrator, a writer, etc., etc. and September promises more time for me to exercise these parts of myself without wee ones under foot. I know I’m not alone. I believe most parents are ready for the kids to be away from them for hour upon glorious hour enriching their minds, bodies and spirits all thanks to others’ efforts.  I know that when school starts my kids will be in good hands and having good days. I know that I will be blissful and productive in their absence – the piles of paper on my desk will be winnowed and complete thoughts will grace pages–hopefully. I know that my kids will be as happy as I am to be apart.

It is the most wonderful time of the year.

And not just because my kids are out of my hair. Really. That may be the biggest reason but, the start of the school year marks the passage of phases in our lives, thus inspiring nostalgia even for those of us who are not so inclined. Each September, I look at my children’s uniforms which fit differently and realize that they are another step closer to personhood – presuming I don’t completely screw up this parenting thing and retard their growth too much for their school to temper. So, as I reflect on my children’s first weeks of the 2015-2016 year, I’m taking a nostalgic stroll through some of their past first days – because my husband took them to the first day of school this year.

When our daughter started kindergarten at her previous school my husband and I got her there a couple of minutes late.  Worse yet, we (read me) didn’t realize that we were supposed to send our firstborn off to school with two snacks –  until I got the flyer she brought to me at pick up. I’d thought I was on top of her culinary needs for the day having ordered hot lunch; who knew about snacks back then?  And finally, there was the footwear fail – she was supposed to wear lace up shoes, not the brand, spanking new slip on shoes we bought for the first day of school.

Many at school were far more together.  Her kindergarten teacher even took a picture of the three of us when we arrived — late — to her class.  All three of us remember the calm authority of that stellar kindergarten teacher who captured our daughter’s entry into elementary school.  She pointed our little pistol in the right educational direction. Thank you.

When I picked up my little girl –early (see—an old dog can learn some new tricks)—my daughter was positive. We went to get a smoothie and bumped into other kindergarteners. She refused to leave the smoothie store until she had slurped her last drop of acai (we are in LA, after all) along with her classmates.  She embraced the longer school day leaving her father and I more time to work… so we could save for the therapy bills she will surely rack up as a result of her parents.

As the years passed our performance improved. We dutifully read all of the information the school and parent volunteers sent us each August – something I hope parents still do as I am currently a room parent – because there are a lot of necessary details in that fine print. We got the kids to the beginning of their school days promptly, even during the three years when we juggled two schools.  While the schools were near each other, the start of the school year was always rushed as we tried to divide and conquer first day rituals at two places.  Maybe this is why I forget specifics of those past school starts. Maybe I should’ve taken my eye off the logistical ball and been more present for each kid. Then again, maybe not – neither kid has complained about how any of their school years started… at least not yet.

I remember last year’s school start vividly. Finally, after four years of wait lists, our daughter was accepted into our son’s school— meaning we only had to scurry to one institution. Our daughter was so excited for school that she didn’t get to sleep until 9pm (her bedtime is 7:30pm).  Nevertheless, she was dressed and ready to go at 7:10am.  Her little brother was equally enthused about the start of first grade, but gave into exhaustion at 8:00pm.  He was up at his usual 6:00am and dressed even before his sister.  The morning was off to a great start – gummies chewed, breakfast finished and sunscreen slathered—all without complaint.

It was going to be the most wonderful time of the year.

My husband took our son and headed off.  I, who spent several expletive-filled minutes searching for my keys, urged on by my eye-rolling daughter to hurry up, followed with her shortly thereafter. My husband was calm and practically skipping with glee having already walked our son to his class – where our son promptly blew him off.  I was sweaty and still cursing (no, not out loud, ye of little faith.  I didn’t want to get my daughter kicked out even before she’d gotten started) when I arrived in the parking lot and panting heavily by the time I’d hiked up the hill to my daughter’s 5th grade classroom where I was allowed to stand only long enough to take one picture.

My husband and I met in the auditorium to await the start of the first day parent meeting, each of us pleased that we’d launched our children into their respective grades.

I got in line at carpool, which for once didn’t seem like tedium writ large, to pick up the kids with a tear in my eye, thrilled that they were at the same school that I am convinced will enable them to find and nurture their best selves.   Raising a fully functioning adult takes partnerships between parents and schools so that together we can teach our children to strive for excellence – and to pick themselves up when they stumble. We ended the day at the beach with friends and French Fries – a fine way to mark the end of another beginning on their road to independence.

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