Nervous On the First Day

They already know the building, but the teachers are new, the classes, the details and the mixture of friends. One is starting 3rd grade, the pivotal year between playful young childhood and more serious study. One is starting 6th grade, the beginning of middle school, with a locker combination and 100 new students and transitions all day long. Another is starting 7th grade, a continuation of what began last year, one step closer to high school.

School starts today. And with it come all the usual butterflies of the beginning of a new school year. For them and, for me.

Why would I be nervous? I have no classes to attend, no hallways to navigate.

In one way, I am nervous because they are nervous. You feel the emotions of those closest to you almost as if they are your own.

In another way, though, we parents are affected by the schools our children spend their days in. We have friends whose children are just starting elementary school and they’re exclaiming at the way other parents behave, the familiarity they already have with one another, the all-too-familiar feeling of being left out before you begin.

Yeah, that’s the way it is, we say. Some people never leave the politics of school.

When your children attend a school, there’s a whole new network to figure out. Things to join or not join (PTA, room parent, volunteering in the classroom or in the building). People to know or not know (the parent who always does everything, the one all the administrators know, the one in the front row at every assembly).

There’s a calendar to memorize and follow – When are the half-days? Where do I pick up my child? When are vacations? School parades? When to come in costume and when to wear the class shirt and when to have your hair brushed just so for pictures? And what about the conferences in the gym where you wait for your turn in the order of the chairs and fight the din of so many parents talking just to find out how your kid is doing?

A child starting school is a parent starting school, for better or for worse. After the first 10 minutes this morning, my children will be fine. They’ll swim in the flow of routine and familiarity and friends and they’ll come home energized, with stories to tell and new people to know and optimism for the year ahead.

So what about we parents back at home or at work? We’ll be thinking about them all day, hoping for the best, knowing in our hearts that with every school year, they leave us just a little bit more and come home just a little bit closer.

And our politics, the adults in the background of the new school year. Forget about it. It happens whether you are part of it or not, whether you sign on for the drama or not. You make your friends like our kids make their friends and you stick to them – the familiar, the kind, the smiles you know. The depth of real friendship vs. the here-today, gone-tomorrow flit of friends just because our kids share a teacher.

There’s surface chatter everywhere. Don’t let it overtake you.

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