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The First Day Of School

I drove them to school this morning, leaving the house promptly at 7.45. Today might be the only day that my children will hop out of bed without an argument, don their uniforms and rush to the counter for breakfast. We were out the door with time to spare and then it happened.

I realized that this is our life and summer is over.

I asked the kids if they felt nervous about their first day of school. Alexander said he’d have, “more changes than anyone ever could.” And he went on to talk about how he would have to change clothes for PE now that he’s in third grade. Jane promptly replied, “that’s nothing, I’m the oldest kid in the lower school now that I’m in fifth grade.”

That’s when I had driving issues. I had to use that stupid Lamaze breath that they tried to teach me before I dropped out.

“What do you mean you’re the oldest kid?” I asked Jane.

“I’m in fifth grade Mom, that makes me the oldest kid in school.” She grinned.

I had a moment, this fleeting urge to redirect the car, pick my husband up from work and begin our lives as homeschooling survivalists, where we could spend our days and nights together. Every piece of me wanted to freeze them, just as they were to just hug them and love them and tell them that 10 and 8 are perfect ages, and just stop growing.

My son remains an absolute mystery to me. He talks and I listen to his words and watch his mouth move and I think my goodness, is he mine? How did he appear here? Will anyone in the world love him as much as I do? Alexander and I are so different, he’s given me a new lens for the world.

And Jane just sends me back in time. I watch her stop to think for a moment and I know the words before they leave her lips. She’s my daughter, everything she does makes sense to me, there was never a moment that I  didn’t understand her needs, wants, hopes and fear. Knowing is what terrifies me.

I brought the kids onto campus, watched them find their friends and pick up where they left off in June. I eyeballed the teachers and the parents and exhaled, perhaps a little too loudly, knowing that my children are in an incredible environment. The peer group is splendid, the parents are devoted and the teachers are bright and engaged. It felt okay.

Just not good, because, you know… they didn’t invite me, and I love those kids best.

13 thoughts on “The First Day Of School”

  1. This was a beautiful post. My oldest son starts kindergarten on Monday and I’ve been an emotional mess about it. I can’t figure out where the time went… and I am having a hard time accepting the fact that he’ll be ‘on his own’ for a few hours everyday now. There is a lot to look forward to, but at the same time, it’s bittersweet, right? And I’ve gone crazy with the back to school shopping. I’m out of control on a good day, but now that I have the ‘back to school’ excuse… I’m unstoppable! ;)

  2. My kids started school last week and it has been one giant adventure.

    My daughter is in kindergarten where she and her friends are busy trying to decide who is going to marry whom. Heavy negotiations are taking place.

    Her older brother’s response to all this is “girls are weird” and the astute observation, “moms are just bigger girls aren’t they.”

    I smile and tell him that he has no idea, but one day he will.

    In between all this my son wants to know why everyone else went to Hawaii or somewhere else and we didn’t. I laugh and tell him poverty builds character.

    Fortunately he shrugs his shoulder and is content to resume playing with Legos.

    School is a blast. I just keep my fingers crossed that they never stop loving it.

  3. my littlest guy started kindergarten today. my youngest daughter started middle school (6th) yesterday…along with my oldest son and my 2 step kids.
    it is happening too fast.
    i just wrote a post about this in the detroit news online.

  4. OK, Jessica. Time for your dose of Amy; your foreshadowing mom.

    When our kids became teenagers my friend’s dad sat us down for some advice. He had raised 4 amazing kids with whom he has a fantastic adult relationship.

    Here is what he said, “Ok guys, here is the deal”. He took a piece of paper and drew a big circle. In the middle of the circle he put a dot. He then said, “The dot is your kid, the circle is their friends. You… are not in the picture. Now learn to let go and back off”.


    They grow up. They still love you (if you are lucky). And they still need you (more than they will ever admit). But when they start to fly, let them. That was your job in the first place.

    And as delicious as 8 and 10 are – 15 and 17, 17 and 19 are just as much fun. Just different.

    All that said I will admit that on the first day of my younger child’s senior year in HS I would be lying if I did not say I am a bit queasy.

  5. 8 and 10 were perfect ages, right on the cusp of (in the case of your daughter) all that “woman-stuff)and, your son still loves you and will let you hug and kiss him. I so miss that. Especially the son part. I still get glimpses but I still miss those adoring eyes that said I was it for him. Of course, back then I had those pesky PTA women to deal with but that’s another post. Kudos to you for being present enough to appreciate this moment in time.

  6. I’m with you on this one. I hate it when school starts–they each have a whole world that I’m not really a part of–

    I was trying to explain to Katie the other day–about how I love them. I could never have imagined it, until I had the kids–sometimes it breaks my heart just to look at them, standing on the football field, or walking into high school., or playing soccer on the playground…


  7. Hey Jessica,

    Very touching story. Children grow up so fast. I am fortunate to be an administrator at the elementary level and love seeing how they mature and grow. It’s incredible to see them come in as kindergarteners and leave young adults.

  8. I always get really sad when I read these posts by mothers with older children than mine. Though, on the positive side, it makes me cherish, all that much more, the time I spend with my son, who will be turning 1 year at the end of October. It’s freakish how fast time flies… I just make sure to hold him tight and shower him with hugs and kisses while I have the chance. I know someday he’ll be… “Ewww.. MOOOMmm, doooon’t!”

  9. Great post Jess,
    It made me teary. I miss those days. I know exactly how you feel. Kayla called me last night to tell me she just registered to vote, procrastinated on her chem lab and would be up til 3am doing homework. She has locked herself out of her dorm at least 4 times and the cafeteria doesn’t know how to serve anything but pizza, burgers and salad. They have left vegetables off the menu entirely. She’s 2 states away and I miss her like crazy. It will be a month on the 16th. Ugh. I won’t see her until Thanksgiving. She became “drunk with power” and got a nose piercing 3 days after we dropped her off. She also went to her first official college party. I had her paranoid enough that she brought her own 20 oz bottle of sprite, never let go of it and by the time she arrived everyone was drunk and acting stupid. She stayed 20 minutes and went back to her dorm confused about why they all found it fun to be drunk and act like idiots. I just breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, she could have made it all up just to make me feel better, but whatever, I’ll take it.

    I miss the good ol days. Especially the ones before the nose piercing!!!!!!!!!

  10. Waaaaaay. Yup. I second this.

    I have a teenager now, as of August- which is super freaky. And my littlest is now walked into school by his 5 year old sister every day, as is the carpool tradition.

    I watch them walk in, their backpacks bowing their small shoulders, and it just doesn’t look right to me.

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