I have two children: a sixth grader and a first grader. Back to school this year came with a new set of challenges that make me particularly thankful for a long weekend.
First, my children are in different schools for the first time this year. My sweet six-year-old is on her own at elementary school. Protective older brother isn’t with her at the bus stop or on the bus. He isn’t there to make sure she finds her way home, or to help her carry heavy stuff, or glare at mean kids on her behalf. (Hey, there are some advantages to having a brother who is the tallest kid in the school!)
I’ve noticed this week how much comfort I took in just knowing he was there if she needed him. I didn’t appreciate him enough last year! And, I surely didn’t appreciate his presence in the morning. I’ve had to work an extra 20 minutes into my already insane morning routine to hang out at the bus stop with my girl. I had no idea how much difference 20 minutes could make. There is no coffee strong enough to make up for 20 minutes, friends.
Middle school has been a real eye-opener for me as well. I feel fortunate that my son is attending a magnet school in our area, and it comes with some challenges, as well. First, very few kids from his elementary school are attending that school and none of them are in his classes. I know that he isn’t the only kid in the world to have to sit alone at lunch time or to feel insecure in a hallway with hundreds of unfamiliar faces, but it hits closer to home when it’s your child living through those moments. Thinking about him all alone at the lunch table hurts my heart.
Everything about middle school is different – I am sure in a week or two it will seem like old hat, but it’s been a very big week. He has not one, but two lockers (one for books and one for gym). That’s two locker combinations to remember and two of those crazy locks to master. He has seven different teachers in seven different classrooms rather than just two. His school isn’t around the corner, it’s clear across town and if he rides the bus home, it’s almost 5 p.m. before he arrives. He’s in a uniform for the first time this year so I cannot even offer simple comforts like his favorite comfy t-shirts.
Every day he’s arrived home with additional requests for supplies and materials, along with new long, laborious lists of rules, procedures and deadlines. I was so proud that we had diligently gathered his supplies in advance but it made no difference as each of the seven teachers seem to have requests that weren’t on the original list. He can barely carry all that he needs to and from each day – and that’s before he brought home the tuba. Yep, I said tuba.
I could go on and on – I’ve not even touched on comments from older students about drugs, or that he has four minutes to “dress out” for PE each day (and not a second longer) or that homework is already taking an hour each night and it’s just the first week . . . suffice it to say, this week has had my husband and I on our parenting toes.
Sharing ideas for how to meet new people, how to navigate in unfamiliar territory and reinforcing how proud we are of them both. We’ve had several careful conversations about choosing friends and determining priorities, too. And, as I suppose is to be expected, I’ve seen so much growth from them both in just a week’s time. They just grow up so fast and I just want the clock to stop ticking for a moment so that I can catch my breath. It has me feeling melancholy . . . and super thankful for a weekend!
Deena McAllister is the Director of Marketing for Texas Health Resources and mom of two.