OPINION COLUMNS

The evolution of first days

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, August 18, 2018
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My husband and I agreed to split the first-day dropoffs this year since we have two teenagers now – one at the middle school and one in high school.

“What time are we leaving?” he asked me the night before.

I was still processing his question when our middle school darling popped out of nowhere and announced “we’re leaving at 7:20 and will arrive at the school at 7:30.”

Kristen Tribe

There you go. She was his assigned kid to drop off.

I call out to the boy.

“What time do you want to leave?”

“Oh, 7:35, 7:40,” he replied, a bit more laid-back. “It doesn’t take that long to get to the high school.”

Our first-day routine has changed little in the 11 years we’ve had a school-age kid – a hot breakfast, photo-op and then the dropoff. But my emotions have evolved through the years and will likely continue to do so as senior year approaches.

As a kindergarten mom, the Boo Hoo Breakfast is no joke. I think I actually held it together in the building, but cried a little in the car. I wasn’t sad that my boy was “growing up,” but sad because he was upset.

Although he had been to preschool, he spent most of his time prior to kindergarten with me. His face crumbled as I walked out of the classroom, and I felt like I broke his heart.

Obviously, I knew this was an important step in growing up, but I felt like there was a weight on my chest as I drove away from the school. I couldn’t wait to pick him up that afternoon.

Our next significant first day was when little sister joined the elementary school ranks.

It was a big year. Both kids would be in school, and we were switching elementaries, from Rann to Young, since we were in the attendance zone for the new campus.

My daughter wasn’t as nervous, just a bit teary. After all, she’d seen her brother go to school every day for two years, so she knew the routine. Plus, her teacher was a childhood friend of mine and former student of my dad’s, so we were all happy.

Any tears I shed were short-lived as I quickly realized the “free” time now at my disposal. It was the first time in several years that I was actually able to have a thought without also answering a million questions or helping someone potty at the same time.

We cruised through the rest of elementary school, handling those first days like champs. There were a few worries through the years, but nothing particularly gut-wrenching, just normal back-to-school nerves.

By this time, I’m thinking, “I’m a pretty great mom. I’ve got this figured out.”

And then we had to go to middle school. I was so nervous for my son. I tried to hide my anxiety from him, but there were days I thought it was going to bubble over right before his eyes.

Students from all three elementaries were to converge on one sixth-grade campus, and I had imagined a million ways this could go wrong.

What if his group of friends didn’t stick together?

What if he didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch?

What if he couldn’t unlock his locker?

I think I was more nervous than he was. Or maybe it was equal.

It was the longest first day ever, but he reported it was a good one.

Whew. Another one in the books, and we all survived.

Looking back, the two years following were also a bit nerve-wracking because then the boy advanced to seventh grade, which meant another new campus, older kids and an athletics locker room. This makes mommas nervous for their boys.

Then little sister started sixth grade, and before I knew it, the boy was in high school. I just didn’t catch a first day break for a few years as I hoped and prayed my kids made these transitions, kept some solid friends and started to find their place in the world.

Fast forward to this year. By the last day of summer, all I could think was “get these teenagers out of my house!” I love them dearly, but it was time for them to do things. Things outside our home for multiple hours in a row.

They were bored. They were ready to see their friends. And I needed a return to routine.

I dropped them off without a second thought and then, in my giddiness, almost forgot to pick them up.

I anticipate a couple of years of “easy” dropoffs before the big one – college.

I already get choked up thinking about it. I’ll probably come home and face-plant on the bed after that one. But we’ve got a few more years to go and some growing up between now and then. Hopefully my heart can handle it.

Kristen Tribe is assistant publisher of the Messenger. She may have cried a little while writing this column.

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