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It Gets Easier With Practice, And Other Stupid Myths

Maddie’s heading off to first grade
this morning, and I am, if it’s possible, more freaked out
about this first day of school than I was last year with
kindergarten. Sure, she’s much more relaxed this year and
even eager to start school; sure, we are pros at this; sure,
I’ve been there before and know what to expect.

That’s the problem.

Last year I headed into the school year
with some nebulous idea of what the experience would cost my
daughter; in my naiveté I imagined a bit of difficulty at
the beginning followed by my daughter’s joyous plunge into
all things scholastic, and thought that the year, while a bit
rocky, would be relatively painless after the first month or so.

But last year was not easy for Maddie, and as the year went on the
seven-hours-a-day took a huge toll on my little introvert. She
became whiny, prone to meltdowns, and exhausted; she began having
nightmares and fearing sleep and was so overwhelmed we had to cut
her after-school social activities to nearly nothing. I
didn’t realize how hard the year had truly hit her until
summer came and she slowly unwound and began recovering her sunny,
confident self.

Some time around the middle of July.

Yes, it took that long for her to bounce back completely, and when
she did I had this moment of, “Oh, my gosh, I remember that
girl! I’m in love with that girl! I’ve missed her so
much!” So I am loathe to start another year which might well
send that girl back into hibernation.

I’m not saying Maddie was scarred for life and will have
post-traumatic stress syndrome from her year in kindergarten; but I
am saying that she has often said that school exhausts her and
makes her want to come home and take a nap, and that it’s
just too long. So knowingly sending my daughter back into that fray
is difficult for me.

I’ve spent the weekend weeping over Beatles songs and
tenderly folding all her new school clothes into Maddie’s
closet. I’ve baked furiously, pouring all my angst and love
into piles of breakfast cookies and baby quiches and homemade
snacks for the afternoon. If I can’t go with Maddie
personally, then by God she will have a calorie-dense tangible
piece of my love to take with her.

As far as Maddie’s concerned, of course, I’m incredibly
excited for her and looking forward to Maddie’s first day of
school with cheerful anticipation. She is raring to go and
there’s nothing to do now but wake her up and get the party
started. So I’d best get to that, I suppose.

You’ll notice, of course, that I haven’t said one word
about Cora: my youngest starts school –pre-kindergarten
– for the very first time this year. But that’s a week
away and I’ve got that whole thing locked behind a smooth
white mental wall, around which I refuse to peek.

Plenty of time for that melodramatic overreaction in a couple of
days. Cue the Beatles songs and organizing Cora’s closet.


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