I remember my first day of school as a mom.
It really started that summer. I ended my full-time job three days before my third child was born at the end of June. I went from being the working parent to the stay-at-home parent of three. Talk about a role reversal! My oldest was beginning kindergarten, and I was starting classes at Iowa to finally finish my degree. We were starting school together at the end of August! We were both really excited about it.
All summer, we went to visit the playground at the elementary school. I had read that it was helpful for the child to be comfortable in the new space. It would ease the transition of being in that environment all day, every day. She would quickly become a master of that gigantic play structure that is rated for children ages 5-13 so that all ages can enjoy it. I was more scared than she was.
We went back-to-school shopping and got ourselves backpacks, notebooks, pens for me and crayons for her, and new athletic shoes. Hers were required for P.E., and I needed something sturdy so I could get across campus in under ten minutes. We lived just down the street from her elementary school, but I was going to ride the city bus. It was cheaper to get a student pass than to figure out parking. So, we took a couple of practice rides and she helped me locate the buildings for all my classes. I wore the newborn in the sling, who slept through it all.
At the Back-To-School Ice Cream Social, we met some great parents, all the wonderful teachers, and ate ice cream, of course! We felt a bit bombarded by all the activities and resources presented at tables. We went to the parents’ meeting so we would know what to expect as first time school parents. I felt so overloaded with information, yet, I still had no idea what to expect. It reminded me of when we toured the hospital for the labor and delivery unit. I wished we had a “What to Expect–First Year at School” book that I could refer to for every possible scenario that may come our way. There really is nothing that you can hear or see that truly prepares you for this complete upheaval to your life.
August arrived. Her school began the week before mine did. We felt so ready! The first day of school came, and we had to wake up so early. It was a huge shock to the system after our relaxed summer routine. Plus, I was a new at-home mom with three children now. We were all a bit grouchy. I recall thinking that I already hated school. Ha!
I was no longer in charge of my own schedule and routine. If we couldn’t get there on time, would I have to answer to the truancy officer on behalf of my daughter? Who needs that stress? It felt so much worse than when I had been working. All of my jobs before were pretty lax about when we arrived, and I’m normally punctual anyway. Somehow, this felt like a way different set of expectations and responsibilities. Maybe that’s because it was not for me, it was all for her, and yet I was the one who would be held responsible and accountable.
It is a bit funny how reflection makes things look and feel. All of this happened in 2008. My oldest progressed to junior high last year, and I remember feeling those same stressors again with having to learn a new school and system. Middle school is very different from elementary school. And yet, she was the one who was fully ready and willing to accept her new role there. I just had to be there to sign the papers and pay the fees.
This year, she will be a pro at eighth grade. Then next year, we’ll have high school, a new beast. Oh! We have never had a visit from a truancy officer. Even with some tardiness under our belt, we’ve still managed to attend school within the required amount.
I wish I had all kinds of advice for you, especially if you are preparing for your child’s very first year at school. It really is unlike anything else I’ve done as a mom. Know that you are not alone, naps and/or early bedtimes are healthy (for you both!), and share in the excitement of this new phase–school-aged child.
Good luck to all you mamas on the first day of school!