The school year begins this morning for our area. It’s later than many other school systems, and there have been countless blog posts that chronicle this event in a much better fashion than I could ever hope to.
I have one boy who is entering full day kindergarten and one boy entering second grade. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks preparing for today’s big event. And it is indeed a big event.
Commercials, schools, and parents (including me) are quick to use the phrase “back to school”. The ease with which we assign familiarity and comfort to the beginning of the school year must puzzle some returning students.
Sure, the building may be the same, some of the friends will be the same, and many of the teachers they see every day will be the same. But what is also the same is the nervousness and apprehension that goes with seeing new kids and adults. Educational challenges face them that seem as daunting as the ones they battled last year. Peer pressure comes back and seems stronger than ever.
Kids are saying goodbye to parents and caregivers again. And despite the complaints that were voiced about boredom and strictness, there is a part of them that will miss the comfort and intimacy that a break from competing with 25 other students for attention affords.
My youngest is focused now on the excitement of beginning elementary school, riding on the bus with his big brother, and the pet snake that awaits him in the classroom. He may even be too excited to look back at me from the bus window. But there will be that moment of quiet on the first day, when he turns to ask me a question and realizes I’m not there. I hope that he remembers the question and asks it when he gets home. Too often our kids forget.
My older boy is excited about seeing his friends again, but he’s experienced school for the first time, twice before now. I sense it in the increased frequency and duration of his hugs. I sense it in his quietness as we distributed school supplies and look at calendars. He does great every year, but it doesn’t lessen my concern for him and it doesn’t lessen his nervousness.
As for me, I’ll watch and wave until the bus is out of sight. Only this year, I’ll be waving goodbye to two kids. I won’t be turning to grab anyone’s hand and walking home with them as we plan our morning. I’ll be working on projects that have been neglected, mostly for good cause, as I’ve focused on the dad part of stay-at-home dad. I’ll be looking for part-time work. I’ll be making longer range plans that until now haven’t been feasible. But most of all, I’ll be remembering what my school years were like and wondering how my children are doing.
I’ll also be doing a lot of clock checking to see if it’s time to make my way to the bus stop to greet them. Because it’s not just going to school for the first time again, it’s coming home from school for the first time again.