I’m never quite ready for school to begin. My daughter, however, always is, and this year was no different. After sharing with me her “vision” for her first-day-of-school outfit and orchestrating a shopping trip so that we might find the perfect one, she set it aside, along with coordinating socks and accessories.
Her ensemble waited at the ready, for three weeks, under a note she’d written that said, “Wear the first day of school.” Clearly, she wasn’t taking any chances that her mother would have a laundry crisis the day before school started. I admire my daughter. I don’t know when I’ve ever been that prepared for anything.
Suffice it to say that she did not get this readiness-inclination from me.
I recall that most school mornings of my youth were chaotic affairs, usually involving a fashion crisis or two (even though uniforms were in the mix – go figure), and always entailed sprinting the half mile through the woods from my house to the bus stop with pigtails flying and peanut-butter toast in hand.
I almost always made it on time. I still love peanut butter toast.
I recall that, while it was a pain in the butt – and I often wondered why the heck I didn’t just get my act together earlier – I relished the breathless satisfaction of dropping triumphantly into my seat on the school bus. It was probably a sick game I played with myself. Much to my daughter’s consternation, I still play the game.
“I’m raising myself,” Holly has said, on more than one occasion. She’s doing a marvelous job of it, too. She packs her own lunch the night before and even writes a note reminding herself to add perishable items and an ice-pack the next morning.
Her brother, well, he takes after me, in some ways.
“I think I remember my locker combination,” Noah mused, moments before catching the bus Tuesday morning, the first day of school. I smiled, noting this difference in my kids’ personalities. Holly, who was so excited she even wore her first-day-of-school outfit to bed the night before, takes after her dad in her preference for being uber-prepared. I’m guessing that when the time comes she’ll probably have her locker combination committed to memory long before she needs it.
For example, in her effort to manage her frustration about not discovering her new teacher’s identity online (because her mother tried logging in 13 minutes after the website on which it was posted went down for three weeks – ugh!), she compensated by using a wipe-board to devise a chart of the three fifth-grade teachers along with the names of the students who’d already learned their class assignments. (I have never before seen such a flurry of emails.)
In the end, she decided that any of the possibilities would be OK, as she’d discovered there were people she liked in each of the three classes. It was her way of preparing herself to accept any outcome, and I was impressed. Kids – even those raised by mothers like me – can be so resilient.
The only thing left to do by Tuesday morning was to take the requisite first-day-of-school pictures. After I got the kids to stand together on the front steps, my favorite first-day-of-school picture place, I looked through my camera’s viewfinder and discovered that an enormous weed had grown up past the hydrangeas, partially blocking my view of their faces.
Noah’s bus was due any minute and there was no time to spare, so I ran up the steps and yanked the ginormous weed out of the way, wrestling it to the ground while the kids laughed.
It wasn’t pretty, but the levity made for better pictures. There were no jaundiced, please, just take-the-dang-picture expressions pasted on their faces this year.
An hour later, Holly and I joined the throng of parents and children at her elementary school in the frenetic scramble to locate new teachers and classmates.
“Let’s go,” Holly quietly said, as she dropped her backpack on the blacktop and jogged toward her friends.
I was incredulous. I recalled her first day of fourth grade last August, when she issued explicit instructions to not even accompany her to this line-up area on the blacktop – let alone follow her to join her friends – so I decided she must simply be psyching herself up to get the show on the road.
But I wasn’t sure. Was she really asking me to come along, I wondered?
“You don’t really want me to follow you, do you?” I mumbled, not realizing I’d asked the question out loud. I guess she heard me, though, because she looked back over her shoulder and smiled.
I got the message. I found other moms to visit with, instead, as I snapped pictures of my girl from a distance. Because she didn’t need me to follow her. Nope, she was ready. She’d made sure of it.
• Jennifer DuBose is a contributor for the Kane County Chronicle. She lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.