Fall. The time when the years of bottles, diapers, potty training, play dates, eaten refrigerator magnets and beans up noses culminate in that most memorable of days, the First Day of Kindergarten. The day when mothers finally get to have a hot meal and possibly a drink for the first time since before pregnancy. Who care’s that it isn’t even noon?
Photo by Patsy Lynch, FEMA Photo Library, Wikimedia Commons
My son was terrified as I half drug him into the boutique charter school I had carefully vetted in my search for the foundation that would prevent him from making permanent, adult-sized dents in my couch at the age of eighteen. Back then, he still wanted to marry me when he grew up, and he thought digging in the back yard was the perfect career. With a quick hug and my best motherly assurances, I dashed away before he could see the tears streaming down my cheeks.
I spent the next two and a half hours imagining him singing with his class, frolicking at recess, and laughing with new friends. Then I rushed to pick him up, and this is what I found.
“I HATE THIS SCHOOL! THESE TEACHERS ARE MEAN, MEAN, MEAN, AND I’M NEVER COMING BACK AGAIN!”
My perfect angel was slouched in the hallway, already banished from the classroom and its bounty. Thus began our journey.
In the past eleven years, I have learned many lessons.
- The fancy charter school in the next town over is not necessarily better than the unremarkable school up the street.
- Children really ARE just like their parents.
- All teachers say they want volunteers.
- Some teachers actually do want volunteers.
- Most teachers say they want volunteers because it’s District policy, but they actually pray in their hearts that they will never, ever have to talk to a parent outside of parent/teacher conferences because parents really ARE just like their children.
- If I don’t believe everything my children say about their teachers, perhaps their teachers won’t believe everything my children say about me.
Photo of Schulers Donuts by Cindy Funk, Wikimedia Commons
- And MOST importantly, exercise liberal Donut Diplomacy. Nothing receives a higher Good Will Return Quotient than a dozen donuts strategically delivered to the office staff periodically throughout the year. Trust me. The good will of the office staff is invaluable at blasting away the inevitable obstacles in the journey, and if there are enough donuts to share with the faculty and administrators, the Good Will Benefits compound exponentially.
My son and I visited colleges this summer. Turns out he is a born engineer, and he’s still out to proove digging is a career.
Today, he and I drove his terrified baby sister to her first day of high school. Our Last First Day on our family’s public school journey. He had some advice for her.
- Don’t be narcissistic. You’ll stand out in a bad way.
- If you’re going to play volleyball when high school boys are watching, no little shorts for you. You’ll have to find a way to play it in a burka.
- Get a thicker skin. When you’re swimming with sharks, don’t bleed.
Together, we booted her out of the car with our love and the comforting lie that the three pounds she gained this week in her “salty meats therapy session” (aka compulsive salami consumption brought on by starting-high-school anxiety) didn’t really create a muffin top.
On this Last First Day, I do my children the now rare favor of picking up their belongings and planning a special dinner for them. But only after I duct tape the refrigerator door shut on the salami and fight off the weakness in my heart that says a couple of adult-sized dents in my couch might not be so bad.
What have your First Days been like? What are the lessons you’ve learned in your educational journeys?
All the best to all of you for great firsts and lasts.
Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse