Friday, September 10, 2010

I Need Some Sort of Diploma for Surviving the First Week of First Grade

Two things:

First, being the parent of a child in school is way more complicated than being the parent of a baby or a toddler.

Note that I did not say "way harder" or "way more exhausting." But complicated? Yes. I mean, people, you witnessed the intellectual challenge that was the Picking Out of the School Lunchbox! This week I have also traversed the mental terrain of Comprehending the Elementary School A.M. Drop-Off Policy and Map (full disclosure: possibly not yet fully accomplished), not to mention Successfully Mastering the Requirement to be in Two Different Places at the Very Same Time, with Two Different Children Going to Two Different Schools (progress made).

People, I know that this is small potatoes compared to the mental and physical gymnastics I'm going to have to engage in when my kids are, like, 11 and 13 and their schedules and school policies are more complex than the University of Illinois Graduate School's rules for typing up my dissertation. (Which, by the way: Gah! I still have PTSD from that ordeal, ten years later. Uh, moving on.)

Oh! And second: Yeah, sending your child to half-day kindergarten is nothing compared to sending your child to all-day first grade. OK, that's not completely true. In one way, kindergarten was much more wrenching: the first time she'd ever ridden a daily school bus, the first time she was away from me on five consecutive mornings every week, the first time she was faced with crowds of bigger, older children in the hallways and on the playground. First grade isn't as hard because of all that; that's old hat now. But all-day school makes morning kindergarten seem like a sweet sheltered romp with fellow baby lambs. First grade is long, people! And tiring! And hard! She comes home and it's like she's been to war. Well, a pleasant, nice, friendly war, with loving superiors and scheduled bathroom breaks, but still.

No, really---Julia likes first grade so far. She's got the best teacher ever, the perfect kind of teacher, the kind of teacher you'd imagine if you were envisioning the ideal teacher of six-year-olds facing all-day school for the first time. Her school is so incredibly sweet and friendly and caring. She knows 4th- and 5th-grade neighbors and family friends who come up to her on the playground before the first bell and make sure she's all right if she looks lonely and nervous. The librarian remembers her by name from last year.

But seriously, you all, I'm the mom of a bona fide school-ager this year--the real deal too, not just half-day--and whoo boy, it's complicated. (A take-home folder every single night! The packing of the lunch! The DAMN DROP-OFF POLICY!)

But you know what else? It's only been four days, but I think it's going to be a fun year. I can taste a little more freedom for myself, for writing and coaching and consulting and earning some money. I just started freelance writing on health and wellness topics for a company that provides web content to established sites, and I've got another essay coming up in a soon-to-be-published anthology about the challenges of modern motherhood, so life is looking rather exciting.

Except for the separation anxiety tear-fest that is currently The Beginning of Preschool for Genevieve (even though this is her second year in preschool). There is NOTHING exciting about breaking out in a total sweat while your four-year-old latches herself around your neck and wails so loudly in the nursery school hallway that the custodian in another wing of the building comes around the corner to check on the noise. Unless by "exciting" you actually mean "wondering if your underwear is showing as you're squatting all the way down to the floor in your dress and boots to hug your screaming child, who is drawing attention, perhaps to your underwear." But you probably didn't mean that.

Whew! And that was my week! How was yours?


Mnmom said...

We're having Middle School separation anxiety which isn't unlike preschool except her vocabulary is bigger, she's too big to carry, and the deep deep mental angst involved is giving me a migraine every single morning. It's like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" every day.

Rita said...

I feel your pain.


(I'm sorry. Did I yell just then?)

Yesterday it rained. HARD. Yet my son's school decided they would STILL make all the children sit OUTSIDE during carpool.

When he arrived home he looked like he'd been swimming. IN his clothes.

Anne said...

wow, what a week. And congratulations on your new writing gigs! That's so great! Good for you.

p.s. had our first ECFE yesterday and will post something about that soon... So not happy with OUR (the parents') "teacher' (and why on earth to they think a "teacher" is what we need, as opposed to, oh, good group discussion leader, good listener ...)