By Dr. Paula Bloom
“Do you need some tissues?” “Are you feeling sad?” “Isn’t it hard to think that your kids are growing up?” I answered with a smile, but in my head I was thinking, “No. No. And no.” These are the questions I was asked as I walked my 6-year-old to his first day at his new school (my husband took our 9-year-old to the bus). There were parents taking pictures, consoling each other and struggling, more than their kids seemed to be, with letting go. The school even offered a coffee talk for parents called “Cheers and Tears.” Even though there was free coffee and food (I’m not one to turn these things down!) I purposely chose not to attend.
As I walked back to my house (yes, my child’s school is next door which means we are finally considered “walkers!”), I asked myself, ”Why am I not feeling all these feelings like those other parents?” Luckily, I’ve gotten better at recognizing that whenever I begin comparing myself and my feelings to others, I need to run interference. Very little good comes from comparing ourselves to others. There is no right way to feel (even we shrinks need reminding.)
I’m a real sap, or so I’m told. I cry at weddings, tv commercials, movies, books and even have been known to get tearful when looking at an amazing sunset or a stunning sculpture. Sometimes when I catch the sight of my kids sleeping it brings a tear to my eye. Beauty touches me. But, for some reason, the first day of school doesn’t bring up tears or longing for time to stand still. I think it’s the combination of my kids getting older and me getting wiser, or at least I hope I’m getting wiser. Of course, when my son pushes me away when I hold him too close or for too long telling me, “Mom, I’m not a baby anymore” I can get a bit emotional. Then I realize that my job is to raise adults, not kids. His need for independence trumps my need to keep him close. When he does need me to comfort him I try to be there. And, being really honest, I enjoy the opportunity.
I looked forward to sitting down for dinner and hearing about their first day of school. I was expecting an, “It was fine” or, “we didn’t do anything” (sound familiar?), but I wanted to allow some balance between my need for information and their need to not relive their day.
I got a text from my mom asking how their first day went. So, as I do most mornings, I talked to my mom and let her know. She raised an adult but I’ll always be her kid.
How have you handled the first day of school with your kids? Let me know what worked for you.