For the past sixteen years our family has observed a special day in August . . . The first day of school! The way we celebrated that day changed through the years, but it has long been a part of life. It began when Mitch left for Kindergarten with his brand new backpack, and his stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh clutched tightly. (Each child was to bring a favorite stuffed animal for comfort on the first day. It's not that my child had a particular thing for walking around with Pooh Bear.) There were tears (mine) and the teacher had to escort me to the door and insist that she could handle it. But I didn't want her to handle it. I didn't want her to have more of my child's waking hours than I did.
The next year, Amanda joined him at the "big school" (not pre-school) and it was a little easier. We tease Amanda that I cried when Mitch started school and did cart-wheels when she did. That's not entirely true - cause I can't even do cartwheels. Granted, she required more effort at home. Her "social butterfly" days began in her toddler years and she needed a constant string of friends to fill her time. So, yes, it was easier to accept the teacher's assistance with occupying her ever-curious brain all day, but that adorable little blonde with the pink backpack was still a piece of my heart that walked off to school without looking back.
First day of school also meant new clothes and school supplies. It was one of the few times that Daddy joined us on a trip to Wally World. He would take one child and his/her list of required supplies, and I would take the other. I think Amanda always tried to get Dad as her escort, because he was an easier mark. "But Daddy, I want the cute pink notebook with the kitty on the cover. I know it costs $1.95 and the plain red one is 20 cents, but Daddy. . . [batting of big brown eyes]" Worked every time!
As the kids got older the shopping trips became more frustrating . . . and expensive! There's probably a correlation there. Wal-Mart was slowly replaced by The Buckle and Maurice's. No more Rustlers jeans and comic-character tennies - only Levis and Nikes. Then came basketball shoes, and cheerleading outfits and cars.
To compensate for the hair-pulling shopping trips, it got easier to send them out the door on the first day. I hosted "Hallelujah, They're Back in School" breakfasts at my house for other moms who wanted to celebrate having 8 hours of independence again. If you are the mother of school-age kids and are feeling guilty because you secretly delight in their return to school - don't! You are not alone. We are Legion!
In 2009, we had our first "First Day of School: The College Years". To quote my mother-in-law, "Now there's a day you'll never forget!" Once again, I cried . . . and cried . . . and cried. In August of 2010, we did it again. And I cried . . . and cried . . . and cried. Yesterday was First Day of School #16, but both kids were already living in their college homes, they bought their own supplies and they got themselves to class without my help. To keep myself from wallowing in self-pity and to avoid another flood of tears, I packed a shopping tote with notebooks (the pretty, expensive ones), some gourmet snacks, and other goodies and headed to Manhattan (two hour drive) to celebrate Back to School with Amanda. We had lunch with our friend, Susan, tried out the new fragrances at Bath and Body, and bought Amanda a new pink backpack. Then I dropped her off on campus and she even looked back to wave goodbye. Some traditions are never outgrown.
*For the Fairness Police among you who are questioning, "But what does Mitch get for the First Day of School?" I guarantee that he has had his share of parental trips to spoil him, and will have more.