“It’s ok that you won’t be at school with me. It’s only for a few hours. Just like when I go to Nana’s. “She recited the words I had been using to reassure her about the upcoming transition to preschool, but then she started to ad-lib, “And you’ll always be in my heart. Right, Mama?”
My eyes filled up with tears as my oldest manages to do this quite often, take me completely off guard with just the sweetest, most endearing sentiments I could imagine a young child saying, actually rolling off her four-year-old tongue.
“Yes, of course, honey, and you are going to love going to school. You’ll sing songs, make lots of friends, get to play and learn all kinds of new information to teach sissy and me when you come back.It’s going to be great.”
“But you’re going to miss me, and I’m going to miss you.”
“Yes, and that is ok honey. It’s only for a couple of hours, and I am not far away.”
Smiles and anticipation filled the morning, from getting her backpack ready to donning her first day of school dress. This is after months of talking about pre-school and all the fun she will have and new information she will learn. After some Pinterest style photos, she was ready for her first day of Pre-K. We arrived at the school and walked towards the doors to wait with the other parents and new students for the teachers to come and collect the eager new pupils as described in orientation just two days prior, and as the doors open and many of the students run forward to face this new adventure, my child clings to my body like a spider monkey baby to its mom.
Fear spread across her face and tears rolling down her cheeks, she cries hard as I try to pry her from my limbs and send her in the door all whilst telling her how much I love her and how she has “got this.” Meanwhile, I turn and flee the scene, her wails still audible from just inside the door. I make it around the small corner and hide behind a bush, peeking and listening for some sign that my baby is going to be ok, tears streaming down my own cheeks as I can no longer hold them back. A few straggling parents tell me that she has already started to calm down and that she will be fine, but as soon as I walk in the door to my home, just minutes away, I call the classroom anyway to check.
“I’m so glad you called,” her kind teacher tells me on the phone. “She is laughing and playing happily.” I breathe deeply and feel some peace, despite the fact that my first baby is now a pre-schooler. The days of her spending all her time with me are over. That phase has now passed, and for the next 14 years, I will be entrusting others to guide and teach her while she is away from me at school.
My story is not different from that which many moms can tell. Although only my first first-day-of-school, others are quite veteran in this process. Whether your child is facing the first day at a new school this year, hoping for a fresh start from a not so great year before, or whatever it might be, the start of a new school year can be very challenging for kids and parents alike.
“It’s the third day of school, and already he has reached level red on the behavior chart!” My exasperated mom friend tells me of the trials the new year is already providing for her and her son.
“How was today?” I ask my sister about the transition of her kids to a new elementary school this year.
“Not good…” she begins to tell me of the difficulties this transition has provided for her two kids.
So what’s a mom to do? You’re trying to stay strong and be an example for your kid, but your insides are being twisted and ripped out from the angst this situation is causing for him/her. Although not a veteran, here are a few things that have helped me to navigate the beginning of this fall season.
1. Talk to other moms.
For me, this is the number one thing to do in all situations mom-related. Misery loves company, and chances are some mom has been there and can commiserate with you if she isn’t in the throes of a similar situation herself. Perhaps she has some words of advice, or she can at least be a shoulder to lean on for a minute or two until your other child’s needs call for you to snap outta your mom slump and pick up the slack.
2. Bask in the new positives.
My daughter brought home a paper at the end of her first day of preschool that talked about the things she liked that day, and I was instantly hooked. I cannot wait to look in my daughter’s book bag at the end of each school day to see what she has brought home. I love to hear about snack time, the new stations that got put out that day, and who did what job. It is so awesome to soak in the details of my daughter’s time away from me. I attentively watch new songs and motions performed, and bask in the glory of the stories about her friends. At drop off time, other moms and grandparents tell me how their child can’t stop talking about mine, and I share the same stories with them as we watch the new budding friendships blossoming before our eyes. It’s an unexpected gift to cushion what I felt I have “lost.”
3. Enjoy the time you do have.
Whether your schedule was “wide open” because you stay at home with your kids, or you had a different kind of schedule because you also work outside of the home, it’s different now with a child or more in school. So, time is limited from what it once was, and the time you do have with your kids is all that much more precious. In some ways, it may be even harder to enjoy because additions to the schedule afford less time for you to get things done at home or for work. And while the crunch can be stressful, it’s also eye opening. Schedules will only get tighter. Lives will only get busier, and so being present with your kids now is even more important.
4. Start getting caught up in the season, and get your kids caught up too.
It’s fall ya’ll. The last couple years with my littles from fall through January have been just magical. Yes, I did use that word, yes, it is the perfect word to describe this time of year. All the excitement that the holidays held when you were a kid is now visible in your little ones, and I absolutely love this time of the year. Is it hectic? Yes. Is it stressful? Yeah, it can be. But, it’s fleeting. Making crappy crafts and decorating your home with your little kids is fun for them. It gives them an opportunity to explore their creativity. Letting them put things up in your home gives them a sense of pride and ownership. So what if you’re not “crafty.” You’re Mommy. Let go of having the perfect house or the perfect decorations, because we all know kid projects may not meet Pinterest standards. However, even a Pinterest fail can be a mom win, so get busy enjoying the holiday season.
Just as I was told, my kiddo now runs to the doors of the school, never looking back as I stand there watching her. She smiles and stands in line, waiting for her other classmates and the walk to their classroom to start the day. Our lives are changed forever, but not all is lost. Granted, I will never get those days back, but there is plenty here to enjoy in this phase that will be all too fleeting as well.