Back to School

August 2013

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.

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