He would be attending the same public school he attended for first and second grade and was pretty excited about seeing all of his friends he had left behind. From the moment I made the decision (mid-way through third grade) he would constantly talk about how exciting it would be to see his friends and his old teachers, even the after-school program where one of his favorite caregivers EVER was still working.
A few weeks ago, when I went to fill out paperwork and show proof that we still lived in the school zone, the secretary recognized him and allowed him a reunion tour of the school. At that moment I knew I made the right decision, the look on his face said it all, like the one you get when you arrive home after a long trip.
With all his enthusiasm, I’ll admit it was a little surprising when he confessed Friday that he was feeling nervous. His concerns flooded out, he didn’t know his teacher, and wasn’t sure his friends would still be his friends. He couldn’t find all the words to describe it, but it was something I remembered vividly.
The first day of school, every single year, was the worst day of my life. I was a highly emotional child. The start of anything new was a common trigger for tear-stained cheeks. It never mattered if I was going back to the same school I had already attended from kindergarten through third grade. It was a new grade, with new teachers and new challenges. I would have preferred to just stay at home.
The morning after his nervous confession, he was back to declaring that he was excited about fourth grade. His teacher would be awesome… Just like all of his other teachers. He’d see all his friends and make new ones! He would even get to realize a long-held dream of riding the bus to school! This year was going to be GREAT!
He still seemed a little unsure as we walked onto the playground today. His constant chatter appeared to be an attempt to cloak his residual nerves. Suddenly, we heard:
A young girl ran towards him and they hugged tightly. A boy walked by and gave him a big smile and a hello. Another boy walked up and stared at him, as if trying to decide whether his eyes were playing tricks on him. Then his favorite caregiver walked by and hugged him, bragging to a teacher about what a great kid he was and how stoked she was to have him back. His new teacher and his second grade teacher both gave him big smiles and warm hellos.
He ventured away from me to catch up with other kids he recognized. It was a homecoming for him.
I was surrounded by exhilaration. A multitude of children were swarming the playground, yelling enthusiastically to their friends who—presumably—they hadn’t seen all summer. Teachers and parents milled about, reuniting and catching up on what the past eight weeks had entailed.
I saw a single child who represented what the first day of school had meant for me. She held tight to her father’s hand, looking warily at the crowd and never once finding someone to shout with elation to. She stayed with him until the bell rang and she was forced to line up with the others. He kissed the top of her head and gently guided her to where she needed to be.
T ran to me, frantically. He didn’t know which line! I pointed out his new teacher. He started to run away, then turned suddenly, and threw himself at me in a quick hug. We said our “I love yous” and he hurried to the line forming in front of his fourth grade teacher. He immediately found another friend and waved at me, pointing at his friend fervently. Both boys were practically jumping up and down, talking animatedly.
I lost track of the girl. I turned and walked away from the school, headed to my car and work. I can still see her face, and I wish I could have told her, “I know that feeling.” Whether she was the new kid at school, or just perpetually nervous about beginnings, I’d once had the same butterflies in my stomach. I had wanted to hide behind my mother, go back home with her, give up on school so I didn’t have to deal with the nerves.
But even more I wanted to tell her, that it would all be okay. She would find a friend, or two, a teacher who would make her feel safe and who would offer her support. She might never get used to the beginnings, but that doesn’t matter. It’s what comes next that is really exciting.
Roxanne Piskel is a single mother to a 9-year-old superhero and Doctor Who fanatic (okay, he gets it from her!). She’s a Bay Area transplant living in Reno, NV. She obtained a B.A. in English from Sierra Nevada College where she edited the Sierra Nevada College Review and is starting Master’s classes this fall! She is currently a program coordinator for a university, and does freelance editing and social media management on the side. She’s edited for several indie authors and bloggers, and currently works for Lifehack.org. She also has a short story published in Precipice: the Literary Anthology of Write on Edge Volume 2 and regularly writes for World Moms Blog.