Recently, one of my favorite morning shows allowed parents to call in and confess (sans guilt) that they were glad to see their kids go back to school. I was not among these callers.
Sure, I’m glad to see the kids head back to the classroom — they’ve been together 24/7 for the last couple of months and their constant bickering of late is a testament to the fact that they’re thoroughly sick of each other and need some time apart. And, honestly, they both love school and were eager to find out what new and exciting things they’d be learning this year. But, for me, the first day of school is always bittersweet because it’s a reminder that the little hand in mine isn’t nearly as small as last year — of course, that’s provided I’m even allowed to hold that little hand at all.
As I walked my fifth grader across the Intermediate School parking lot, it was a little heartbreaking when I reached for his hand and he brushed it away with a look that clearly conveyed this simply was not done. But at least I wasn’t alone. I saw other mothers and fathers reaching instinctively for their child’s hand only to stop short, perhaps realizing their sweet baby is, in fact, not a baby at all, but a tween now, and that being seen holding the hand of a parent is beyond mortifying.
And to make matters worse, this was the first year I couldn’t escort my eldest to his classroom. I had to leave him in the gymnasium with hundreds of other fifth graders he didn’t know, trusting that when he told me he was fine and didn’t need me to stay that it was the truth (even though I wanted to believe he was just being brave…).
I left the school a little choked up but managed to hold back the tears, thanks in large part to my embarrassment at being so ridiculously emotional. Because, really, shouldn’t this be old hat by now? I mean, it’s not like this was my first First Day. I’ve been doing this for ages! And yet I was sniffling more than a little as I pulled out of the parking lot.
Luckily, I still had my youngest to drop off, so I quickly shoved aside my nostalgia to wallow in later and took my first grader to school. I gave him a few extra hugs and kisses (because he’ll still let me), feeling a little sad when I left the room and he didn’t so much as glance up from his dot-to-dot worksheet. But just as I felt the tears stinging my eyes, I heard from the classroom doorway, loud and strong for all to hear, “BYE, MOM — I LOVE YOU!!”
And as I continued down the hall, grinning to myself, I wanted to hug each of the other parents with red, swollen eyes who were peeking tentatively around the corners to see if their little ones were doing okay, and assure them that their kiddos were going to be just fine and that each year their own tears would be a little easier to swallow.
That is, until they call home to see how their fifth grader’s first day went and his voice cracks….
Pass the tissues, please.