Today was the first day of school. Sort of.
Because of some complicated rules that I don’t fully understand around class sizes, coupled with the fact that apparently a whole bunch of kids show up on the first day without having registered, the first day of school is basically just a chance to take attendance. My daughter Hannah returned to last year’s classroom, where the whole class found out which room they’ll be reporting to this week. While they work out the new class lists she’ll stay with her classmates from last year, doing a whole lot of what amounts to busy-work. On Monday (hopefully) she’ll get her class assignment, and school will actually start.
My son Jacob, who’s starting kindergarten, had to show up to get his name ticked off the list four hours after my daughter did. He will have a ‘welcoming conversation’ on Thursday with his teacher, and we’ll find out which class he’s in then. He’ll start going to school on Monday, and with gradual entry he’ll be up to full days by Wednesday. So, really, there’s more than a week left before I’ll actually enjoy the freedom of having two kids in school full-time.
All the same, this is the first day we had to wake up in the morning and make the trek up to the school. It’s the first time we saw the kids and parents we haven’t seen since June. It’s the day when everyone shows up in their new outfits, collects their school supplies, and talks about what happened over summer vacation. It’s the first time that our family’s schedule has been dictated by the school bell for over two months.
If you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said that I was totally fine. More than fine – I was actually looking forward to having both kids at school. My children are certainly enthusiastic. While Hannah grumbled a little bit about having to get up this morning, the truth is that summer vacation was starting to wear. This morning both kids were up early, dressed in their first day outfits, and raring to go. Fully 30 minutes before it was time to set out they were bouncing around our front hall, putting their shoes on and making excited sounds.
Jacob took the first day excitement to a whole other level. When we headed to the playground after signing him in and picking up his notices, he actually tried to break back into the school building, saying, “I want to go to kindergarten today!” As I called him back to me he answered, “I’m okay, I can go in without you to find my class!” He’s more than ready for this. That makes one of us.
While I didn’t cry today, my anxiety is showing. I woke up several times during the night last night, sweating and unable to remember what I was dreaming about. I had a hard time eating breakfast, and I snapped at my kids without good reason a few times today. I know my kids are ready to go back to school, and I’m looking forward to having more time to work, but I’m also feeling some angst associated with this life transition.
It is a transition, after all, to have both kids in school. My son is five years old – the baby phase is long past. However, today I’m really faced with acknowledging that I don’t have a baby anymore. I have school age children, who have lives and friends and interests that lie outside the four walls of our home. They’re heading into greater and greater independence all the time. It’s freeing as a parent, but it’s also kind of sad. Today, the sadness is poking through.
The road of motherhood is marked with milestones, big and small. As I stand in front of this one, I’m still not sure what to think of it. I’m too close to see the whole picture, too caught up in the conflicted emotions of yet another transition. Tomorrow, maybe, things will be different. But for today, I am giving myself the freedom to just feel, and not think too much, and drink a lot of tea. In the past eight-and-a-half years of parenting preschoolers, I’ve earned that much.