It’s early September, a gray day, a threat of rain that won't deliver. Yesterday was Wally's first day back at school. He had less than a month of summer vacation. I felt conflicted about the summer program. Since I am a stay at (work from) home mom, I technically could have had him with me the whole summer. Though I doubt I would have gotten any work done, it still feels a little selfish, or maybe just hypocritical, to be another supposed "free-range" mom with her kid tied up much of the day even in summer.
Last year he wasn't anxious at all about starting school. He didn't know what to expect--ignorance is bliss, kind of thing. This year the lack of nescience makes it harder -- he knew there were lots of things he doesn't know. Where would he sit? Where would he put his backpack? Why wouldn't there be any of the same kids? Most of all, why couldn't he stay with the teacher he loved so much?
I could only think to reassure him by telling him how many friends and cousins of his are starting new schools this year where they have to make all new friends, too. Last year on the first day he walked in, started playing trains, and looked up only long enough to say, "Go, Mom" when he realized I was still there. This time he was shy and clingy, looking off in the distance when people asked him questions. Still, he was okay with me leaving, happy enough at pickup, and raced ahead of me to get to his class without so much as a backward glance today. So all in all, a pretty easy transition.
For me the transition last year felt huge. Going from that little cocoon of the two of us together to a school kid. Last year in the days leading up to the start of school, when I knew something big was about to happen but Wally didn't really, I felt sad and something else...something like guilt but that's not quite the word. That sadness of the countdown...the last days of eating lunch together, the lovely quiet of an afternoon nap...then a trip to the library...a stop by the park. Though the days were broken up with appointments, my running around, my attempts to get work done...there was still a semblance of that quiet life of a small children: the snacks, the picture books, the crayons scattered about...those few precious difficult years when you are the center of their world. Those were all coming to an end.
This year felt like hardly any change at all, to me. Yet for Wally who was uncertain and a bit afraid, putting his backpack on and walking through the classroom door was tough. He seemed braver last year, but I remind myself of that quote from the WWI pilot about how "There can be no courage unless you're scared" and realize the opposite is true.