Tomorrow my little guy will be a big first grader and it feels like a new beginning not just for him but for all of us. The fact that parents feel this involved in the start of a new school year is a secret that was kept from me as a non-parent, and certainly one I didn’t understand as a kid. I remember well those dwindling days of summer, the excitement about school that percolated with nervousness and ambiguous, undefinable fear. And there was the letter, awaited all summer, that would come to the house with my new teacher’s name and room number, followed by the emergency calls to my friends to find out if they were in my class. I never suspected for a moment that my parents might also be anxious, or share my sorrow that the summer was over, or feel hopeful or wary or whatever about the coming school year.
Maybe it’s because I have only one child that I find myself excited and anxious and hopeful. I was a fount of emotions as I shopped for his school supplies and clothes, choosing among the scant pickings at Kohl’s for boys his age and sensing my inchoate panic about the lack of acceptable long-sleeve shirts. By God—we live in New England! You’d think the snow were due the second day of school. We have time, I silently told myself. It won’t likely start to get chilly for a month or so. The child has plenty of clothes.
It’s better if I do most shopping without the little guy, although I did have to drag him along when I bought him a new pair of shoes. He has zero interest in shopping and his only opinion about anything I ask him about is, “Are we done?” or “Can I go look at the toys?” Once in while, when I come home with something really, really cool, like the red Lego pencil box I found at Staples, he’s excited and pleased and I know I’m a rockin’ mom.
Maybe things have changed, too, since I went to school. These days, at least, sending your child to school isn’t about dropping them off at a place that has little or nothing to do with you. You are part of a community. A lot is expected of you, not just of your child. Fundraisers, outreach, public relations, play dates with new or potential classmates, birthday parties, end-of-year parties, back-to-school picnics, volunteering for the book fair. Last year, Jonah’s first at this school, was especially nerve racking because we didn’t know anyone. I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d fit in. Now that we know people, now that we’ve all played well with others, I’m not as worried about the fitting-in part.
The little guy hasn’t expressed a whole lot of much about school. He’s told me that school will be harder this year and I’ve said he’s right, but that he’s smarter now, too. He’s a bit sad that the summer is ending but excited to see his friends and teachers. I don’t sense a lot of anxiety coming from his direction and that’s a good thing.
I’m guessing he’ll be fine.