Dear Gavin –
Tonight, I kissed your forehead as you settled in to sleep on back-to-school eve. You grinned and wrapped your arms around my neck and held on tight. Just as you always have. And, just as you always will, I imagine, until you realize that hugging your mom every night before bed isn’t “cool”. (Whoever defined cool, any way?)
Each year, those arms get a little longer. A little stronger. And, a little hairier. (I am not ready for these man traits to start, although they do make me chuckle. As I suspect many moms do, I’ve jokingly told you not to grow up. And as all children do, you have. And will.) I asked if you were excited for school to start. You smiled and nodded your head vigorously. And I believe you. I am happy for you. For just last week on the morning of ‘meet the teacher’ night, your stomach bore the brunt of nerves born from uncertain times ahead. Ah, my little worrier. Some reassuring words from Mom and Dad, a short list of good things to look forward to, a tousle of the hair and back to yourself you were.
We quietly spoke a little bit more about school and being a big third grader this year. Your nose quickly blushed slightly pink to match the rims of your eyes. Hello again, nerves. I softly reminded you of the good that will fill the halls, your class room, your life as school gets into full swing once again. You patted my hand and gave a little side smile, as if to say, “Hey, Mom, thanks for trying.” I’ll always try, buddy. One of my most important jobs – even though it may not always seem so – is to try my best for you, so you know how good life can and should be.
You murmured, “I think it’s going to be a good year. Don’t you, Mom?”
“We’ll make sure of it, dude.” We’ll make sure of it.
Sweet dreams Second Grader, for tomorrow Third Grade awaits.
Dear Gracie Girl –
As I removed the remnants of some late summer nail polish and trimmed your “tickly nails” so they didn’t become accidental “scratchy nails” at school, you frowned and roared that you weren’t ready for school. You snapped your eyes up to meet mine. Your furrowed brow softened and was now almost quizzical. “Well, I AM ready for school, Mom. But I don’t feel totally ready.” You took your hand from mine and twisted it up and down as you said, “I am kinda ready for some things, but…” you trailed off.
I took your hand back in mine as I asked, “But what?”
“Well, I don’t have that many friends in my class,” you whined. I gently asked how many friends you would have in your class tomorrow, on the first day of school. You whispered, “Only like two.” I asked how many friends you thought you would have by the end of the school year, and you grinned as you replied, “Well, how many kids are even in my class this time?” See, sweet girl, you’ve got this.
I asked for your best ideas to make new friends. You told me that a good idea is to be kind. I asked, “Only to people you like?” You shook your head and said, “No, to everyone.” I nodded as you took a deep breath. You asked, “Well, what if I don’t like everyone in my class? I should still be kind?” Oh, Grace. The struggle between brutal honesty and doing the right thing is real. (They aren’t always the same – haha!) I told you that yes, you should always try to be kind and we thought about times when people weren’t kind to us and how we felt. You smiled and said, “So, it’s better to just try to be nice all the time – then no one feels bad.” Yep, that’s right. And I hope you remember this beyond tomorrow – haha.
We washed your hands and brushed your teeth. I kissed your cheek and gave you a hug. Your small arms entwined around my neck. So tightly. So tightly. You took a giant breath and whispered in my ear, “I still feel a little bit scared.” Ah, Gracie Girl – a hot fire before warm embers. I held you as I reminded you of a few things to look forward to. And, being Grace, you replied, “And then I get to come right home?” Yes, sweetie, you can come right home. You can always come home. Always. Always. Always.
Sweet dreams First Grader, for tomorrow Second Grade awaits.
Oh, the emotions of back to school. Excitement + wonder + uncertainty abounds.
For everyone involved.
I changed this year.
In the past, back-to-school eve made me remorseful. I quietly lamented what I was losing as my kids grew older. I yearned for yesterday.
Today, I was less remorseful. I was more excited for what lies ahead for them in the upcoming school year. I love seeing them come into their own. With each passing year. It’s a thrill of parenting – and one I’ve grown to adore.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ve found some balance here. Maybe because I realize my kids sometimes need me to be excited for them, if only to help them get over their own uncertainty? We can’t all be anxious or sad, right? Ah, the never-ending tap dance of Mom – constantly moving to put Band-Aids on the holes in tiny souls. And those Band-Aids are never more useful than the night before a new school year.
Cheers for a good year!