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The First Day of School

Child standing in front of school building

This is me, in front of my first elementary school (I moved a lot, so I went to more than one) back in the early '80s.

Looking back, it's funny how the way we think about school changes over time.

Personally, I don't remember exactly how and when my feelings about the first day of school evolved when I was a kid, but I assume it followed a similar pattern to most: excitement at first, waning the older I got. I was painfully shy when I started kindergarten, but I vaguely remember liking school - at least in theory - more in the earlier years than the later ones.

When I started working as an elementary school teacher in 2003, I gained a whole new relationship with the first day of school. I didn't yet have any kids, but my own feelings about school were similarly mixed.

There was excitement to set up and organize my classroom for a new school year and also nervousness about the challenge ahead. After my first year, there was excitement to see coworkers/friends I hadn't seen all summer, but also not wanting to go back to the long work hours (because no, teachers don't only work during school hours - and all those extra hours of grading papers and writing lesson plans happen during evenings and weekends).

By the time I stopped teaching at the end of 2012, I had had all three of my children, so I got to approach the first day of school not as a teacher, who also had to go back, but solely as a parent. I was suddenly on the other side of the equation, and it was a whole new experience!

When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, my son, who's two years younger, would cry every time his older sister got on the school bus. He was so jealous! The injustice that I would not also let him go to school was just too much for him.

We had a bunch of years when the two oldest were excited for the first day of school. By the time my youngest started kindergarten, her older sister - who's five years ahead of her - was already starting to lose enthusiasm. And of course, taking his cues from his older sister, my son was, too. These days, it varies. They have a lot of mixed feelings - excited to see friends, but less so about the schoolwork, mostly. Two out of three kids are not morning people and don't love the getting up early.

Some years, the kids have spent most of the summer at their grandparents' house in Texas, and they've only had a few weeks back at home - at most - before school starts. Those years make me wish we had a little more time to do something fun - though I do have to work, which makes me nostalgic for my teaching years, when I also had all summer to do something fun with them.

Some other years (2020 and 2021 due to COVID, plus one other), the kids were home all summer with "nothing to do" (their words), and it was important that they went back to school ASAP for everyone's sanity.

This year, even my youngest, who's flying through elementary school, has to be reminded of the good things about going back to school (mainly, seeing her friends!). Her sister is in high school and her brother is in middle school, and none of them are what I would call excited. But that's okay, it's all part of growing up - learning that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do. I try to reinforce to them that a positive attitude will make the experience better, but we're still working on that one.

The important part is that they can protest all they want, but they still have to go.

Happy first day of school to all the parents out there!

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