It’s back-to-school time in America. Your Facebook timelines are full of pictures of back-to-school pictures of kids you may or may not know (depending on how many “friends” you actually have) preparing to Shiggy Dance on down the road to that fresh education provided by the state or sponsored by that employment you maintain.
My household is no different. I have three children, two that are school age now. My 9-year-old starts 4th grade in September and my 3-year-old is heading to “big kid school” next week. Sure it’s PK3, but my son will be taking his first steps towards formalized education, wearing a pristine uniform and spending the majority of the day, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the care of educators and administrators. Since he’s been born, he’s been at home with in-home daycare and his mother, so this is a whole new world, on some Aladdin flying carpet shit.
And I’m cautiously nervous. While this isn’t my first rodeo—again, my daughter is a rising 4th grader—there’s something about sending your child into an unknown space where they will be shaped and molded by people whose only connection to you is being present at the school you chose. His mother is nervous, probably more so than I, though I’ve been playing the scene of his first day over and over in my head and hoping and praying for the best.
You know how there are those kids who you think will struggle in a new environment but they don’t give a fuck? Like as soon as you drop them off, they’re rolling into the school without looking back, leaving you with all of the emotions while they’re living their best life? That was my daughter at some point; I believe kindergarten. My son, though? He’ll have to get there because I think that this whole being dropped off and mommy and daddy walking smooth away will be a big thing at first. He’s a momma’s boy now and I know he and mommy will both share one hell of a first-day cry.
As daddy, I know that I will be responsible for maintaining my composure, but as a parent, it’s hard not to spend all day thinking about what your kids are thinking about or going through when they’re not with you. I’ll be thinking of that going in. Is he scared? Happy? Chilling? Frustrated? Obviously, school will help with that. The longer he’s there the more used to it he will become and thus the more comfortable he will be. At some point, he’ll run right into the school building without looking back. But that first day when we attempt to leave and he’s looking at us like “Where are you all going?” and the tears start to well up in his eyes? I’m not sure I’ll be able to take it.
This first-day-of-school struggle is real for many of us. Preparing for the first day is a ritual for all of us with kids. Mapping out the morning, making sure the lunch box and the outfit are right is the norm. Breakfast? Check. But for a 3-year-old, it’s probably a lot like taking a pet to the vet. He knows he’s going somewhere and he loves going outside but he doesn’t know he’s going to stay there by himself so it’s pure excitement until it isn’t. No matter how much we try to explain to him that he’ll be going to school, I don’t think he truly gets it. He has come with me to drop off his big sister at school before but I don’t think it’s registered to him that he’s about to make that life leap.
I think perhaps that’s what gives me the most unease; my son is lit when he’s good but until he is comfortable with his surroundings, he’s extremely reserved and reticent about, well, everything. So while I know that he’ll be fine and that we wouldn’t put him in surroundings we didn’t think would serve him well, he doesn’t know that. I feel like if kids that age could properly articulate their thoughts in words, my son would curse both me and his mother out when he gets picked up on that first day.
It’s an adjustment we’ll all have to make and get used to. My son will obviously have to make the biggest one as he’s entering a brand new world and set of circumstances that are entirely unfamiliar to him save for the few Sundays he’s gone to children’s church. For mommy and daddy, we’ll have to get used to our son in the care of others outside of our home for the majority of his awake hours during the week.
Having gone through it before helps, mostly because it lets me know that we’ll all make it through to the other side OK. But that first day? Lawd.
I’m ready. But I’m not ready ready.
They grow so fast, yo. They need to cut that shit out.