Back to School Woes…

Posted August 22, 2012 by kate in Motherhood, Real Life / 12 Comments

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.



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12 responses to “Back to School Woes…

  1. Oh, I can so relate to this! We have one more wonderful week of summer. Every year since becoming a mom, this season has ended with me saying, “This has been the best summer of my life!” This year, I’ve got to say it again. My two played all day, every day: Catching frogs, playing with friends, swimming at the neighborhood pool and generally being awesome. (Funny how knowing it’s about to end makes me temporarily forget about the afternoon whining, the Capri Sun splatters on the floor, the splinters and ticks, the complete lack of any personal time.)
    I can’t help but wonder if next year, we won’t be as close. They won’t want me involved in their games. It won’t be the same magical time when we have all day to plan together. Even harder: This year, my baby’s going to kindergarten. Ah, the heartbreak!
    Pass the tissues, please!

  2. Loree Huebner

    Wonderful post!

    Savor each of the moments, Kate. Whether it’s 5th grade or college…or grad school, those tears will always flow.

  3. Oh, girl . . . I’m right there with you. My youngest–who I could swear was just born yesterday–starts kindergarten next week. You know those pathetically emotional moms who cry so hard snot runs down their noses? Yup. That’s this gal right here. Hugs! Us woosies have to stick together.

  4. Though it’s been years since my oldest was in first grade, I can still remember seeing her with her little backpack and her freshly sharpened pencils. Sigh.

    Great post!

  5. Amy

    As a sixth grade teacher, I’m not at all surprised by your fifth grader’s response. 🙂

    I really feel for the sixth graders whose parents “helicopter” over them. They are absolutely mortified. It’s nothing about the parent personally. It’s simply a matter of trying to look cool in front of the other kids.

    Next week, we’ll have our Sixth Grade Parent Visitation Day, during which the parents can choose to follow their child around for some (or all) of the school day. Some of the kids don’t want their parents there at all. Others are okay if the parent sits in the back with the rest of the parents and keeps quiet. But my heart really goes out to the kid whose parent pulls up the extra chair right next to his desk! The poor kid sinks right into his seat, hoping to melt away.

    I’m sure this change must be hard on parents, but I can tell from the essays my students write that they still love their parents and still need them–just in different ways than they did before. 🙂

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