When I was a kid, I dreaded the moment when I would see the first back-to-school advertisements on TV. Immediately my heart sank; it was the first reminder that my carefree days of summer were numbered. Anxious thoughts filled my mind – of algebra assignments and getting up way too early. The advantages of returning to school and the convenience of preparing early were lost on me.
Much to my surprise, the impossible-to-ignore displays of crayons in stores, newspaper flyers touting sales and even the catchy TV commercials are having quite the opposite effect on me, as a mom of a now, fully established, full-time school kid.
I am no longer a newbie. I know what a structured schedule means for my family, especially for my soon-to-be first grader. And nothing puts you back on track like a new school year. Having our first year behind us, I now know just how much can be accomplished in nine months. Almost like a magic trick, he was transformed into a reader and could do sheets of math problems effortlessly. A new year is just one more step in the process of watching my little man grow his mind and widen his world, becoming more independent in the process.
Last August was bittersweet. I was a mess of emotions as I sent my big kindergartner off into a strange new world. I had no room for the feelings of relief that have come upon me this time around. Perhaps it’s because school had kept him so active, his mind and body constantly engaged, that when it was time to stop, even for a second, it felt unnatural. I have felt that way, not knowing what to do with myself when I have some true free time on my hands.
Regardless, for a couple months, my to-do list included “finding things to keep Nathaniel busy, preferably positive, educational things.” With a now-irregular schedule and this new responsibility, the pressure was on. Last summer, I heard no “what can we do now,” two minutes after returning from a party at a friend’s house or an exhausting trip to the park. Must he be engaged with fun activities every moment of every day? I always sorta got it when parents would say, “I’m so excited, school is back in session!” But now, I really get it.
So, I was ready, armed with pen and paper, when that first commercial aired. And when that first-grade supply list became available, I went to town jotting down what we needed. The first chance I had, I was headed to the store to load up. The early July preparations would be especially helpful. With an already demanding schedule, this mama was thankful for the head start.
Now, the pencils are sharpened, his name written on his supplies, his backpack and lunchbox ready to fill. All that’s left are those first-day-of-school traditions: a picture (or two or 10) and a big hug and kiss (or two or 10) from his proud mom, dad and little brother.
Come Tuesday, I will be able to mark that one item off my to-do list. In its place, I get to watch my child learn about the world around him from trusted, skilled adults, using proven methods, on a schedule and in line with others his age. I happily give that responsibility over to our school system and his brand new teacher. And when he comes home from school he will have plenty that he has to do, making him especially grateful for the times in which he has nothing to do.
I’ve always enjoyed learning, in school and out, and firmly believe education is the key to so many wonderful things in life. Having a school-aged child adds an exciting element to the mix. I get to come in on the back end – or in the middle – and just help out. I will follow her rules and do the assignments right along with him, demonstrating my own love of learning.
And one day, when he has kids, and he sees that first back-to-school commercial, he will feel that same giddiness, an excitement of a new beginning, a structured schedule and a second chance to discover the world, this time alongside his own child.