Parenting: First Day Jitters

My first and third graders!

I’m supposed to be feeling lighter. Better. After all, 2/3rds of my children are in school after a long summer. But instead, I am a stress monkey.

I’ve crafted this life out of the scraps of good plans, thrown together with the very best of intentions, but nevertheless, messily. Laden with mistakes. If my life were an art project submitted for a grade, I would be kicked out of class. Allen and I have lived a transient life since having children. In our defense, we’ve been trying to find our town, our house, the place we want to be FROM. That may not make sense to those of you who figured it out sooner than we did.

But you don’t always get it right the first time **. Or the second. Or even the third *wince*. Of those who don’t get it right at first, many people just make do, just go along and make a life where they are, make the best of it. And then there is Allen and I. Fickle, pie-in-the-sky, idealistic people who want the BEST they can get, and are willing to sacrifice to get there.

What we hope is forgivable is that we have asked our children to go along with our plans. And they have been able to do so. Children are flexible, right?

Ready to go this morning, a little nervous.

We hope so. In the 8 years since having children, we have lived in 4 states. Kelsey, who just started third grade a few hours ago, has had her first day of a new elementary school 4 times already. Laurel just started first grade in a different school than she started kindergarten.

We didn’t do this on purpose. We thought moving to North Carolina in 2006, buying a lovely house in a very kid-friendly area would be THE PLACE WE RAISE OUR CHILDREN. We were naive. No, actually, we were just plain wrong. Living away from our friends, from any family whatsoever, was foolish, even though we met really awesome new friends and had the house of our dreams. It was a hard lesson to learn. And it took a lot of courage to give up that ideal, that house, that plan, and move back to New England to try to re-forge a life. You can’t start over. You can only begin again, wiser.

So here we are, in Arlington, Massachusetts. East Arlington, to be precise. We live in an awesome house we hope to rent for as long as they’ll let us. We are across the street from a truly exceptional school, and also a mere 7 minutes’ walking distance to Alewife, where Allen catches the subway to get to work in Cambridge. We are surrounded by friends and not far from my family of origin (although still far from Allen’s, which totally sucks). Regardless, THIS–what we have now–this is the fulfillment of a lot of years of trying to figure out where we want to be. And so I should be happy! And I mostly am. Every other day we have lived here, I have been happy about where I am waking up in the morning. Every day but today.

Because when I saw Kelsey from across the gymnasium as I stood next to Laurel in the 1st grade line, I saw a scared little girl, all alone. The anxious look on her face as she stood in the 3rd grade line, as children around her paired off, stood in groups, called out each other’s names, as she stood there alone and afraid BROKE MY HEART. When I could leave Laurel, I walked over to rescue her, but all I could do was stand nearby and smile at her, whisper encouragement, offer a hug. Placid smiling, confident-appearing Mommy was there, but on the inside, my brain was yelling at me. If only we had remained in the old apartment, she would be meeting up with her friends from 1st and 2nd grade, and they would be starting their third year together. If only you could be satisfied with what you have instead of always yearning for something MORE. What’s wrong with you? How could you do this to your kids?

That voice is the reason for this headache now raging through my cranium, untouched by a very considerate chiropractor who tried to de-stress me this morning during our weekly appointment. “It’ll all work out fine, Terry” he said, and I THINK he’s right.

I still have so much to be thankful for. After all, we found our home. And I’m optimistic that things will work out–if not right away, then long term at least. For all I know, both of my girls are having the best first day of school ever. I won’t know for a few hours yet. Until then, I am plagued by guilt, angry at my decisions.

Let me just get through this last transition, Universe. Please. I’m getting better at life. I swear. I’ve realigned my priorities. My head is on straight. I have the most awesome husband ever, and my marriage continues to be an astoundingly profound wellspring of understanding, comfort and love. We have three amazing children we couldn’t love more. The journey to where we are right now has been full of challenges and learning experiences, and I am grateful for the life I have. I just need my kids to be OK at the least, until we can grow deeper into this groove of our new life and make it AWESOME.

** “it” being that confluence of events where you are living in a good location where you have optimal happiness for all your family members.

6 thoughts on “Parenting: First Day Jitters

  1. I presume that, next year at this time, you will be doing something similar in the school's gymnasium.

    But you will be seeing Laurel gathering with her friends from this year, as they prepare for the weird awesomeness that is 4th grade.

    Likewise, you will be seeing Kelsey doing something similar.

    You should then come back and read this column, so you can send warm energy back in time a year to yourself, so you'll feel better today.

  2. All will be OK. Fear of the unknown will go away once it's known, and then they'll be in a familiar situation with all kinds of new friends and experiences to look forward to. And *this* time, we didn't pull them entirely away from their *old* friends — I think a trip to the Stratton playground would be a fantastic idea sometime in the next week.

    *hugs and kisses*

  3. I wish I had something helpful to say. I have the same worries about screwing up my own kid by forcing her to live in two houses at once. I guess all we can do is our best.

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