I took a quick snapshot of our shadows this morning as we walked up the road. That's me on the left, holding the camera. Then Julia, the big girl, and over on the right, kind of hidden in the tree shadows, is Alex.
First day of school.
So many firsts, and lasts. But today is a day of firsts.
September first, for one.
First day back at school.
First day of third grade.
First day of first grade. First year as a full-time, all-day elementary school student.
Yes, it's mostly about my baby today.
She's been extremely excited about being a big girl, a first grader. Until yesterday. The excitement dimmed a bit, and some nervousness crept in.
I tucked her in and snuggled with her a bit last night.
"Mom, I'm kind of scared."
That's okay, it's normal. And you're kind of excited, too, still, right?
I bet you're a whole bunch of things right now, aren't you?
You'll be fine.
"Mom? Can I bring an apple for my teacher?"
Of course you can.
This morning the kids each picked out an apple for their new teachers. I packed their lunches, we sharpened pencils, they dressed nicely and I brushed their hair.
We walked to school.
It's horribly hot and muggy this morning.
Julia held my hand.
"Mom? I'm shy."
That's okay, Julia. Once you see all your friends again you'll be fine.
We would also find out which teachers the kids would have. I had my fingers crossed for Julia – hoping she'd have the same teacher Alex had two years ago.
We got to the yard behind the school. A mob scene, of course. The class lists were over on the left, taped to a white trailer they use to store some of the gym equipment in, I think.
I looked at the first grade lists first.
YAY! Julia got Mrs. W!!! (Remember the scene in A League of Their Own when all the women are looking to see which team they're on? "I'm a PEACH!" That was the feeling.)
I scanned the rest of the list to see who else was in that class. Over half, I think, of her classmates were together in this class.
Then I took a look at the third grade list. Alex has Mrs. P. I don't know anything about her, but I've heard good things about both third grade teachers, so I was actually more interested in finding out who else would be in Alex's class. Turns out to be a good group, and Alex is happy about it, too.
We walked over to where Alex's class was lining up. I said hi to a couple of the other moms I knew, and Alex started telling a couple of his friends about Lucky. He's hoping one of them will be able to adopt the lizard. We'll see how that goes.
I took a look over where Julia's class was going to line up and saw a friend of mine and her son, one of Julia's friends. I told Alex I'd be back in a bit. He's fine. He's a big kid now. Doesn't need me hovering.
Once Julia saw her friend, L, she started to relax, I think. And as more of their former kindergarten classmates arrived, her nervousness dissolved and soon she was busy hugging her friends and trying to pick them up. She's one of the shortest in her class, but somehow feels the need to prove how strong she is.
A bit later Mrs. W appeared, clipboard of names in hand and some stickers. I remember the stickers. One to each kid, "so I know you're one of mine!" Such huge smiles for all her new students. Julia kind of pushed her way between a couple of the other parents and got Mrs. W's attention. Mrs. W beamed down at Julia. "HI! I know YOU! I had your brother!" Such a welcome. Every single child she greeted became THE most important child on the blacktop. I love teachers like her. Everything was going to be great.
I took a few pictures of the kids while we were there. Not a lot. It was so crowded. I left Julia chattering with her friends and went to see Alex and meet his new teacher. I said a toned-down goodbye, have a good day to Alex, because I will not embarrass him in front of his friends by enveloping him in a big mushy mom-hug. And then his class was heading into the building and it was time to go back to Julia again.
I just stood back and watched, mostly. She was fine. She's with a bunch of her little friends, Mrs. W knows who she is and gave her a sticker. It's going to be a good year. After a few more minutes of meeting and greeting, Mrs. W moved to the head of the line and led her new students into the building. I managed to kiss Julia on the head. She was all smiles and big girl importance as she walked past me.
And then she was in the building, and for a split second, I was standing completely alone on the blacktop. There were no other students, or teachers, or parents, or siblings.
I blinked a couple of times and swallowed, and I was once again surrounded by all the students and teachers, parents and siblings. I chatted with this mom…with that mom. Someone was wondering where we pick them up after school. I pointed to the door they'd just gone in.
"That's right," she said, "you're a veteran at this!"
That's right. A bunch of Julia's classmates are the firstborn. Their moms have other younger kids at home. For them, this is new. For me, it is routine. Except it's not.
This is my little girl. My baby.
It's funny – and the laugh's on me – lately I've been SO looking forward to the start of school. The kids have been getting on each other's nerves, and Alex has said he needs a vacation from Julia. I was counting down the days. They need this. Apart from, hey, the whole education thing, they need time apart. Time with their peers. Time to be their own little selves, solo, without having to be son or daughter, brother or sister. Time to just grow as little individuals. And I need a few hours without hearing arguments or "Mom, he-" or "Mom, she-" every five minutes.
Okay, it's not that bad. And they do play well together more often than not. But still. This is a good thing. Routine. A schedule. Time apart. Learning. Growing. Being. Becoming.
It is bittersweet.
Things will be fine, of course. I have lots of plans, lots to do. Need to build up inventory in my Etsy store. Need to write more food posts here and reorganize the whole site. Need to get stuff done.
The walk home was a bit lonely today.