It’s that time of year; my news feed has been filled with the first day of school photos. The adorable front porch shots of book bag clad children, excited smiles on their faces with the curiosity of what the new year will bring. Each year, I have enjoyed these pictures while at the same time enjoying that my children were not yet ready to start school. But this year my children will be having their very first, first day of school.
Both of them will be starting preschool. My oldest, in the 4 year classroom and my youngest in the 3 year classroom. I could have held off another year (or two) for my youngest, but as a working mom it’s significantly easier to have drop off and pick up at the same place and my little one is very excited to be starting school with her big sister. Big sis is feeling a bit anxious and it’s helping her to know her sister will be within the same walls. And me? Well, I’m feeling a combination of both excitement and anxiety. More than a month before the start of school I began getting things ready.
I made phone calls and sent e-mails to the school director in preparation, asking a few questions that had come up in the 9 months since I had registered my daughters for school. I completed more paperwork than I ever could have thought was possible.
We went book bag shopping. I’m not proud to admit that we even went to multiple stores until we found the perfect book bags. And found them, we did. For my youngest, a green and blue one (her favorite colors) that also lights up! And for my oldest, a beautiful butterfly book bag.
I soon realized that I was getting all this done far earlier than necessary, but it seemed to help. I have no control over my children getting older. I have no control over what will happen during the school day. But I can definitely pick out adorable school outfits and book bags. And I know all of the answers to the multitude of questions on those school forms. I have control over all of those things.
School is a frequent topic in our home. We have been talking about the new routine, teachers’ names and the things that they may learn in school and what to expect. As a full-time working mom, I am used to being away from my children. That’s not the part that is causing me anxiety. It’s that they have been going to the same place almost every work day since they were 12 weeks old. They go to in-home day care where their care provider is more like an aunt, the children they are with each day are more like cousins. I have no doubts that school will be a wonderful place for them. But that doesn’t change the fact that this will be a brand new place, with brand new faces and activities.
All the shopping and forms and talk of school caused it to invade my dreams just a few days away from the student open house and parent orientation. In the dream, my oldest somehow managed to soak her entire shirt within minutes of school starting. I hadn’t even left the building yet. I quickly realized that all that early planning did me no good because I was the unprepared mom who hadn’t even packed an extra pair of clothes. In the moment of feeling like a parental failure I also realized I had left the girls’ perfectly selected book bags at home and completely forgot to take their first day of school photos.
I woke up from this dream, feeling rather amused. If these were the worst things that happened this school year, that would be pretty amazing. That’s unlikely though. I expect crying from at least one of my children during drop-off. They will get at least 78 colds and other illnesses. They will probably have their feelings hurt and might hurt another child’s feelings. And so, so much more. In the end, all of those things are really okay too. More than anything, that dream showed me just how little control I really have. Because no matter how much I plan and prepare there will still be questions and problems, tough spots and mistakes. In preschool and beyond.
The very first, first day of school is a big deal. For the kids and the parents. It’s a lot of unknown with the only certainty that your child is growing up. I recently wrote about how Sometimes, I Forget You’re Only Four, recognizing how my daughter often seems so grown-up while reminding me of just how little she really is, all at the same time. The new adventures of school will solidify this even more. The start of preschool is the beginning of letting go, the start of a long line of firsts. Each first proving that time is marching on and reminding me that I wouldn’t want it any other way.