Got Those Back to School Blues

1st Day of School

Cullen waiting for the bus with his brother, Brendan, on his first day of school


It’s that time again. Time for a new school year and all the attendant preparations, activities, joys and trials that this entails. September is such a bittersweet month for me. It signals the close of my favorite season, and the freedom that it represents. On the positive and negative side, it quiets the what-are-we-gonna-do-today chorus from my kids. Their days will be structured by school and sports, I’ll just be required to fill in the not-too-frequent blanks.

My oldest child is entering first grade, and unlike him, I’m not sure I’m ready for this. After all, kindergarten is just like preschool — except it’s shorter — while first grade is, well, real school.

On his part, Cullen’s really looking forward to it. He’s psyched to set off on his own and get his first true taste of what school is all about. Even though I’m torn about his long day, Cullen thinks it’ll be great. He views the increased hours as an opportunity to spend more time at a place that excites and challenges him. He even views the bus ride (40 minutes each way) and the mandatory bullies that inhabit every bus with calm acceptance.

His mother is not so relaxed or lighthearted. I’m actually functioning in the maudlin-mother-mode. I keep picturing him as a chubby and adorable baby, and I wonder how he was ever able to grow up so fast and so well without my really noticing.

Wait a second here. I’m getting carried away again. The kid’s only 6 for heaven’s sake, it’s not like he’s getting ready to leave for college (just imagine what kind of shape I’ll be in then). But this year does signal the end of educational easy street. Not only will he be at school for a full day, he’ll also be required to learn to read and write in earnest. As if the three “R’s” aren’t enough, he’ll have to stay in his seat for long periods of time as well.

It’s been almost three weeks now and so far so good. Cullen seems up to the challenges, coming home excited and brimming over with stories of school.

He’s not the only one learning, though. His mother is being taught some valuable lessons too. I’ve learned how hard it is to watch your children grow and start their own journey through life. You can’t chart the way for them, telling them which direction to go and smoothing out the path. Also, I now truly know the meaning of the expression, “Time waits for no man” (or in my case, woman). Despite what we’re taught about the laws of physics, time is not a steady continuum — it stops and starts and clicks off years with either maddeningly slow deliberation or with dizzying rapidity.

Not convinced? Just think how fast it moves when it comes to your kids.

Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer, specializing in health and family issues.

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