Another school year has begun signifying the next mile marker in our children’s lives. As my kids head out the door with their bulging backpacks and an over-the-shoulder “See ya” thrown my way, I feel the first wave of nostalgia hit. Could these really be the same kids in kindergarten not so long ago? So small and vulnerable that their names had to be pinned to the front of their shirts? Dropping them off that first day, I remember them quickly being engulfed by a sea of kids making their way to their teachers. The school seemed to swallow them up whole as I waved my last goodbye. They were fine. Me… Not so much.
Would they make friends? Would they make friends that l liked? Would they get a good teacher? Would they find their way among the masses? The concerns I had on that first day of kindergarten are largely the same ones I have at the beginning of every school year, even years later. Despite my kids’ shoe sizes now rivaling my own, when I look in their faces I still see the eager six-year-olds trotting off to school with their cartoon lunch boxes.
Even if I wanted to linger in the past, back to school shopping yanks me forward. The closet of clothes that fit last season all need to be replaced. Cuffs on sleeves have surreptitiously crept up arms. Ankles are exposed from jeans that are now floods. Feet can’t be crammed into old tennis shoes. This quick and constant physical metamorphosis can’t be denied.
If that weren’t enough, looming just ahead are the social and academic challenges that await them. Some days the thought of it is overwhelming. I have to remind myself that, although the specifics may change, we’ve actually been navigating this territory for awhile. Every year has had its ups and downs, and we’ve handled the job of growing up pretty steadily. While I may wistfully remember a school supply list that included glitter glue and safety scissors instead of flash drives and five subject notebooks, I don’t really want to go back. What’s ahead looks so interesting.
So, with the beginning of each school year I have the same wish. I hope my kids get excited about learning something, find good friends to connect with, and come a little further on the path of knowing themselves. It’s a big job, and my role in it changes. While I literally held their hand on the journey before, more and more they will need to find their own way. Sometimes the urge to grab on tighter is strong, but my job is to let go gracefully – again and again.