With my daughter Leigh starting school last week (and she is LOVING it, I know you all have been wondering), I have caught myself reflecting back on what it was like when my son Jack started school.
As any parent of more than one kid knows, there are going to be some similarities in your children but also some major differences.
I loved going back and reading this post that I originally shared the day Jack started preschool, and wanted to share it all with you.
How did your kids’ first day of school go? I would love to hear from you.
To My Son on His First Day of Preschool,
I have had thoughts about today for a while. I knew it would be rough, but I knew it would be great. It was going to be the start of your independence.
Your first, first day of school. We were going to wake up and have a great breakfast together. You would put on a cute outfit specially picked out for the day, and stand outside of the front door holding a sign that I had specifically made and personalized for the occasion.
You would smile proudly, I would get the perfect keepsake picture and we would get into the car. When we arrived at school, we would walk hand in hand to your class room.
After getting settled, we would kiss goodbye and I would walk out. There might be some tears from both of us, but we would be OK.
I would commiserate with all the other mothers in the parking lot about how quickly out babies are growing up and how we can’t wait to pick you all up in just a few short hours. The day would be one we would remember fondly.
Well, that day did not happen!
From the moment you woke up, things were rushed. Your sister did not sleep well the night before, which means your Dad and I were exhausted. We were frustrated with how the night went, and both of us were in bad moods.
The nice, healthy breakfast I thought we would have turned into freezer pancakes for you and a cup of coffee and biscotti for me. I grabbed the first shirt and pair of shorts that somewhat matched out of the dryer full of your laundry that I have yet to fold and put away.
As your Dad got you dressed, I took a Sharpie and a piece of white printer paper out to make a “first day of school sign” because the letter board I had ordered yesterday with same day shipping from Amazon Prime got lost in the mail.
Five minutes after we were supposed to walk out of the door, we asked you to hold the makeshift sign and pose for a picture. You threw the sign down and started gleefully running towards the car, clearly not giving two sh*ts about the picture I had in mind!
Knowing we were already late, I figured it was not a battle worth having and I would settle for the blurry picture it got just as you started to move away.
The car ride was uneventful, outside of my pouting because I did not have a social media worthy picture of you. We pulled into school, and as usual, you only wanted your Dad. You would not let me near you, let alone hold your hand. We got to the classroom 15 minutes after your first day of preschool had started. You walked in, started playing with some trains, and never looked back. I tried to get a kiss goodbye, and you turned your head.
As we drove off from your school, I was upset. Nothing had gone as planned. And later that morning, as I was scrolling through my phone and looking at all of the beautiful first day of school pictures, I started to think. I started to think about what was going on behind the scenes of these pictures.
Were there mornings as picture-perfect as these posts made it seem or were they chaotic and rushed like ours was? And then I realized, it didn’t matter. It did not matter what anyone else’s day was like because we had our day. It was far from perfect, but it was your first day of preschool.
It was your first day of independence from us.
When I picked you up those few short hours later, you were so happy. You clearly had a great day. You did ask for Dad, but seemed genuinely happy to see me even without him. The morning was already a memory.
When we got home, while you were still strapped in your car seat, I took a picture of you with the sign I made this morning. It was far from the images I had seen this morning, but it captured the moment perfectly.
As mothers we put so much pressure on ourselves to appear perfect. We need to have the most Instagram-worthy shot, with styling straight out of Pinterest. And while those pictures are beautiful and make wonderful memories, so are actual memories. And even if those moments are not as perfect as we hoped, they are still our moments.
So to my son on your first day of preschool, let’s remember this day as ours. It was chaotic and stressful, and not even close to picture-perfect. But it was your first day of preschool, your first day of independence from us.
Hopefully we will start to get into a groove and hit our stride with the morning routine. But even if we don’t, it’s OK. You are going to learn so much this year and have so much fun doing so. We have many more milestones ahead and look forward to celebrating each of those with you.
With or without a custom-made sign to document the moment!
Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/. She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.