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Starting School

I dropped my daughter off at her first day of First Grade today and, though she was utterly fine, my heart felt heavy as I left the school. Not because I’m concerned about her school or teacher but because, my God, my baby is growing up! Kindergarten still felt like preschool to me: lots of play space, singing and dancing, and doodles to bring home. First grade, with the desks, workbooks, and the pencil cases, threw me over the edge. It feels like she’s on the fast track, now that first grade has begun, and soon she’ll be stuffing her car with books and music iPods, pillows and pictures and heading off to Godknowswhere while waving out the window…to a sobbing mother. I need to grow some thicker skin, or I am going to be a constant embarrassment.

Being an American, and not belonging to a particular religious sect, I am always on the look out for ritual, tradition- activities that make specific times significant and special. Like the first day of school. Following American tradition, I took my daughter out yesterday to go school supply shopping (though she didn’t need anything).  Though she LOVED picking out a notebook and buying a pencil sharpener, I am, as usual, looking for more. I just called up a couple friends who’s children just started first grade as well, and invited them to join us for an after school popsicle party.  That’s a little better– at least it doesn’t take place in a store. But what else can we do to celebrate starting school… and growing up.  I would love to hear if you do anything special for your children at the beginning of the school year, or if you have heard of any cool traditions others do. Do share!

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Reality Check

News for mothers of pre-school aged children: It DOES NOT get easier once your children are in school. Especially if you have one in a preschool and another in a big kids school. And especially if they both get out at the same time. And also, if one goes to school five days a week and the other only two days a week, and you are working, that leaves babysitter coordination– not just “hey, how about Wednesday and Friday mornings at our place?” More like, ” I’m dropping Sunshine off at 8:30 and have to be at work at 9:00, so where can you meet me so we have a nice transition for Boo while still getting me to work

on time? The coffee shop in Harvard Square? Great!” (Have you driven through Harvard Square at 8:45?) Oh, and making two lunches a day. That’s fun to do at 10:00 every night before school. Oh, and nut-free schools, right. Has anyone out there found a brand of bread that WASN’T made in a nutty facility, because I’m sending Boo to school with sunflower seed butter and apple slices.

I guess I always thought life would be easier once the children were in school because then I would have TIME TO MYSELF. The joke is that for some God known reason, we tend to sabotage time for ourselves JUST as we get it by doing something crazy like going back to work, or volunteering on school committees, or canvasing for our favorite candidate. (Maybe you think these activities qualify as “me” time. I don’t. I picture laying on the couch, sipping tea and reading a David Sedaris book as good “me” time.) And so when you add in the lunch packing, the pick-ups and drop offs, the carpool and sitter coordination, what have you left for yourself? Sleep deprivation and anxiety. Sound familiar?

So my advice to current stay home mothers of pre-school aged children is this: Either stay home for the next several years to make up for lost “me” time, or get a grip on reality so that you don’t wake up one morning, like I did, and wonder what…just…happened?

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