by Christina Marie Sterling
“Beep! Beep! BEEP… Beep! Bee…” (CRASH!) The alarm clock fell to the floor after my arm heavily pounded the snooze button so hard it sent the annoying wake-up machine to its maker. Rolling over, still hazy from a dream with my eyes glazed and droopy, I heard a little voice bellow beside me.
“Get up, Mama! GET UP!” Layla’s excitement to greet the early dawn always finds me with great resistance; don’t children know the beauty of sleeping that extra five minutes after beating the snooze to a pulp? Normally, I would have mumbled some haphazard plea to go back to sleep, but I knew this morning was different for it was the first day of school!
It feels as though it comes too quickly, and because Layla is only almost four years old, I always feel especially nostalgic – this fall marks the third year of her attendance at Montessori! This got me thinking about the stages of life from the perspective of the observant parent, particularly this cycle of education, childhood growth, and how it all seems to combine into a blur.
Some of us this year had to pry a toddler off a leg and wipe away tears from a flushed, nervous cheek. Others simply pulled the car to a curb and watched an increasingly independent teenager step out for their first day as a senior. In between and beyond that, there are peanut-butter and jelly sack lunches in elementary school, and then the empty-nesters of sending the baby off to college. For each of us, as parents, the picture may be similar or different, but what we all had in common when school started this year was the realization that time just goes so fast.
The first week back is always the biggest adjustment, and I mean that for us as mom’s and dad’s as much as I do our children. Whether you did it for the first time this year, or you shuffled an SUV full to two different schools, there is never a shortage on emotions on that first day of school. For most of us, a classroom filled with our children brings a much-needed break after the full-house days of the hot Texas summer that seemed to last forever. For some of us, however, letting go that first week, and adjusting to giving the reigns to someone else to educate and teach our children, means so much more than it you ever thought it would. If you find it a little difficult to let go, like I do, just remember that we are fortunate to live where our children can grow, learn, and be free to venture out to become who they’re meant to be.
One great way to make going back to school special is to share meal time together each night. This is a ritual that everyone in the family will enjoy, and the perfect opportunity to give each person a chance to share their day. From the tot in preschool to the teen in high school, giving them the opportunity to open up about what they’re learning in school validates their experience and shows that Mom and Dad care about the education of their children. If this idea is new to you, try it! I am sure, after some practice, a nightly dinner around the table shared with your family will only enrich you all the more.
Each new school year, I am amazed and proud of my little girl and I dream about all she will become. When she clings to my leg in refusal to let go, I bend down to her level, whisper in her ear, and then send her on the pathway to Ms. Paloma’s classroom. When she hears me tell her, “I believe in you, baby, you can do this…” her face lights up, she slowly releases her grasp from my pants, and bravely steps into a new day of learning, all by herself. That independence at such a young age is astonishing, but I believe it helps us both to value what we’re free to learn. Layla and Jemma’s mama is a college student, so as she is learning her numbers and practical life skills, I am learning so that I can succeed for my children, and for myself.
Sometimes, I feel like that little girl reaching out to hold onto something, just like my daughter does when she doesn’t want to walk alone to class. I find a renewed sense of bravery each morning I drop her off to school, and I learn from her that I should be thankful for the opportunity to learn. It really is amazing what children teach their parents.
The alarm clock broke that morning of the first day of school, and I have had to rely on my phone to wake me. Each day we wake together, my girls and I, to start a new day of school… Of life… I remember to be grateful, to encourage my daughter on her path to her future, and to share together as we eat dinner each night. Another year of school is here, and I wish for all of us it is a productive, positive, and meaningful one.