Butterflies in the stomach flutter as this week’s anxious questions swirl. What will this new teacher be like? Will we have a lot of homework? Any familiar faces in this class? How am I ever going to make it out the door by 7:40 every morning? And, to think, my kids are probably wondering these same things.
Back-to-school time poses such a unique challenge – and opportunity. It’s a fresh start, just like that brand-new box of perfectly sharpened crayons. It’s exciting, so full of possibilities. But it’s also nerve-wracking: new teachers with new expectations to figure out, new people to befriend, a new schedule to maneuver. After three months of relatively carefree and leisurely living, the school year arrives amid eager anticipation – and dread.
That contrast was illustrated quite clearly yesterday by my boys’ divergent reactions to their classroom visits. Will, who appears to share his mom’s high regard for school, enthused: I love my class! My room is really great! I’m so excited! Ryan, who perhaps inherited his father’s general disinterest in academia, seemed a bit underwhelmed. Granted, kindergarten is inherently more “warm and fuzzy” than third grade, which is all business these days. And Ryan has always been less easily impressed, a tougher sell.
So much of parenthood is a sales pitch, isn’t it? Think back to the spoonfuls of baby food that became an airplane or a choo-choo train, sounds effects and all. Mastering gentle persuasion is such a valuable tool to garner behaviors we hope to instill – and attitudes as well. My sales pitch this week has been the cheerful excitement of a parent happy for the great new school year to come. I have been careful, I hope, to hide my anxieties and worries about said year and my nagging concern for how crucial it seems to for me orchestrate a smooth first day of school whereby everyone is well-rested, eats a good breakfast and has everything they need in their lunchbox and backpack. (Also, I will of course need to properly document that morning via the requisite picture of children with backpacks.)
You know, I think that trite refrigerator magnet holds some truth: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But I prefer to think of it minus the double negative, in that our positive attitude can and does rub off on our family. I am reminding myself of this now, because in times of mutual stress, it seems especially crucial to take a deep breath and smile. Children perceive our tension, and it makes them worry also. How wonderful, though, that happiness is contagious too.