Thoughts (And Questions) On The First Day of School

In my neck of the woods, today is The First Day Of School. (Perhaps I should have put that in all caps.) My Facebook feed is alight with pictures of smiling/nervous children, all of them super cute. None of them are from our household – our 3-year-old doesn’t start preschool until next week. To mark the occasion, though, I thought I’d write up a few my thoughts, provide a couple of links, and ask all you good people for a little advice on sending off my own little one next week.

1) I never gave too much thought to it before, but now that I’m looking at this first-day-of-school thing from a parent’s perspective, it’s dawning on me that it sometimes if not most-of-the-times has a greater impact on the parents than it does on the child. I know, all of you experienced parents out there are saying, “Umm… of course it does. How could you have missed something so obvious?” But I did. I’m having a little “aha” moment right now and wondering how I’ll be feeling in two year’s time when my big boy goes off to kindergarten.

2) Given all the angst and worrying that my friends seem to be going through right now, I think someone should initiate the tradition of the First-Day-Of-School-Brunchtime-Happy-Hour. Who’s in?

3) Kathryn Whitaker over at Team Whitaker had a post last week called To The First-Time School Mom. She offers some great words of advice/comfort, which can be boiled down to two phrases: “Be proud of your kid.” and “Chill.” And she also confesses that she messed up her own first child’s first day of school – by dropping him off at school 30 whole minutes late. And crying about it to her mother on the phone as she drove him in. So, perk up, friends! From what I’ve seen so far on Facebook, your kids all got there in time.

4) My friend Krista, who just sent her first child off to kindergarten, had a sweet post yesterday on the momentous occasion. The Soldiers Marched to War – check it out.

5) Given all the Facebook chatter about the beginning of the school year, our own preparations for preschool, and all my Catholic mommy blog reading, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of educational experiences I want for my boys. My husband and I have a lot of thinking to do in the next couple of years: public schools, Catholic schools, homeschooling? Which is going to be right for us? So much to think about…

6) For the past month, my own little guy has been insisting just about every single day that this is the day he gets to go to “freefool.” “No, not yet,” I’ve had to reply each time: “Not for another month,” or “Not for a few more weeks.” But now that I’m saying, “Next week!” I’m starting to get a little jittery. Is he ready? In some ways, he’s readier than most – he’s dying to go, he loves being surrounded by people, and he’s not afraid of new experiences. But in other ways, I’m not so sure. Does the kid have his ABC’s and numbers down pat? Nope, but I’m not too worried about that. He’ll figure it out.

What’s worrying me more is, how will he handle unpleasant interactions with his classmates? The child is pretty sensitive, and though he regularly engages in vigorous tussles with his brother over toys and games and me, he’s had very little experience of conflict with other children. The few times that other children on the playground have spurned his efforts to play with them, he’s burst into heartbreaking, pathetic tears. So yes, I’m a little nervous about how this is going to go.

7) On a more practical level, I’m looking for some ideas and words of wisdom from you more experienced parents on the things that we need to work on this week, in anticipation of next week. Here’s what we’re already working on:

  1. His name. We call both of our boys by their middle names, so the poor kids hardly (or don’t at all, in the case of the little guy) know what their real first names are. Lately we’ve been pounding away at it with our 3-year-old: “What is your whole name? No, your whole name?” I’m sure somebody’s going to call out his first name at some point and he’ll think to himself, “John? Who’s that guy?”
  2. Our names. It’s occurred to me that as he’ll be spending his first regular, substantial time away from us, he should know what his parents’ non-“Mommy” and “Daddy” names are. So we’ve been doing a lot of “What’s Mommy’s name? What’s Daddy’s name?”
  3. Our address. What do you think about this one? I’ve done a bit of it, but I’m not convinced it’s as important as the above.
  4. Morning routine. We’re late risers here. Apologies to all of you whose children get up at ungodly hours, but my boys regularly don’t rise until 8 or 9 or (ahem) 10:00. As school will start at 9:00, we have a major adjustment to make. This week we’re practicing getting up at 7:00 and being ready to leave by 8:30.
  5. Bathroom routine. The little guy is potty-trained at this point, but we’re working on the (shall I say) finishing touches. He’s got to know how to do everything by himself and he’s almost there. Almost. But not quite.
  6. Eating. My friends and family already know that my boys have a strange gagging thing that prevents them from eating the types of foods/sizes of bites that 12-month-old babies in other families have already mastered. I can’t tell you how worried I am that somebody will give my boy a carrot stick at snack time and he’ll proceed to choke on it. So I’m working on teaching him to chew, chew, chew; to take small bites; and to refuse foods that are too difficult for him to eat.

8) That’s it! That’s all I can think to work on. Oh, you more experienced parents, what else should we be working on right now?

Thanks for your input! Have a great first week of school, everyone! (And let me know, anybody who wants to take part in the First-Day-Of-School-Brunchtime-Happy-Hour, 2015. We’ll start planning now.)

B Thanksgiving 2010

Surely, he must still be this little. He can’t really be old enough to start preschool!

3 thoughts on “Thoughts (And Questions) On The First Day of School

  1. Hi Julie – As an experienced “mom” and “grandmom” AND a former pre-school teacher’s aide and cook, I can reassure you that Breck will do just fine. Regarding his name – you just tell the teachers he goes by Breck, everyone will catch on. Regarding yours and Brennan’s names, don’t sweat it if Breck knows his last name. You’ll be “Breck’s Mom” and “Breck’s Dad” for most of his school career anyway. Food concerns. You’ll be informing the staff of any allergies or other food issues and folks there are (or should be) trained in First Aid and Child CPR. Give Breck some credit, too. He doesn’t want to choke anymore than you want to see him choke. I think he’ll surprise you at how he adjusts at school.
    Yes, children can be mean – but at this age it’s mostly screaming, pinching, and not wanting to share. All these things are dealt with by the preschool staff. I know when I was involved as a pre-school teacher’s aide (and later as the cook), we were ALL well-trained before we ever put in a classroom.
    Your worries and concerns are normal. So I’m not being dismissive of your feelings. But more than once when working at the day-care, we had to “push” a mommy out the door (and away from the window) so her child would stop crying – the separation anxiety was more from the parent than the child. Within MINUTES of the parent being out of sight, they were out of mind and the little one was happily involved with the activities presented to him/her.
    As a parent, the first day of ANY school year was a day of concern for me – hoping the new pressures of the particular grade, new kids, new everything would not overwhelm any one of my children/young person/young adult – even into college! So, it’s just something you learn to accept about yourself as a parent.
    If a parent ever told me “you’ll get over it” I learned they were either putting up a brave front about themselves, or was truely someone who didn’t enjoy parenting and was looking forward to the day their kid was out on their own (rare – but there are some out there!).
    You know me…I love my kids and grandchildren feriously! And will always consider my role as their advocate ongoing to the day I take my last breath!
    HUGS to you all!
    – Kathleen

  2. Hey Julie Ms Gail teaches them how to be good friends to each other and all that other lovely stuff like letters, numbers, and names. That is why I love it there so much. Manners and friendship are on my top list for preschool 🙂 looking forward to a fun school year ! Btw I’m enjoying your blogs.

  3. You know what I tell myself? If I’m happy and confident about sending him off to school, then he will be happy too. We’ll see if I can listen to myself in the future. Love the happy hour idea! I’m am definitely going to need a happy hour when Max goes off to kindergarten. It’s tough stuff, to let our babies go! I’m wrestling over whether to send next year, when he’ll be the youngest in the class, or waiting year. I’m convinced I’ll ruin his life if I make the wrong decision. Why did no one explain to me how difficult parenthood is?

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