My stepchildren have been back in school for nearly a month now, but those first few days feel like they just happened. Probably because I’m still experiencing some kind of PTSD.
Chloe was, happily, starting her first day of second grade while her little brother, Trey, was, um, not so happily starting his very first day of school. Ever. (Don’t let his smile in this picture fool you, people.)
I knew he was nervous a few days earlier, thanks to his school’s open house. He nervously pulled at his clothes, held his mama’s hand tightly and would only explore his classroom if one of us went, too. I was feeling my own bouts of anxiety because, oh my gosh. He’s starting school. And, as always, I feel like I have to preface this with “I know I didn’t birth him and I know I didn’t watch him crawl, but I so do love him.” I’ve been in my stepson’s life since he was twenty months old… we’ve gotten a little close, I’d say. And seeing him sitting in a classroom desk was breaking my heart and making it swell with pride all at the same time.
I know. Who knew hearts were made to do that? PARENTS. That’s who.
When the first day came, I woke up nervous. The kids were with their mama, but would be coming to our home that evening. I watched the clock and around 8:00, I received the text message I knew was coming. Trey’s mama told me how much it broke her heart because, y’all. He squalled. He cried and cried and, heartbreakingly, looked to his mama as she was getting ready to leave and said “Mama, you aren’t staying with me?”
This is what we were all afraid of, but I applauded the kids’ mama for her strength. She told me she managed to keep her own tears in until she got to the car, but it was just so hard to leave him. Chloe, on the other hand? She practically jumped out of the moving car. (Although, I think it helps in Chloe’s case that she moved up to second grade with the same teacher she had last year. Less of a change for her!)
That afternoon, when I picked up the kids, Trey met me at the door with his book bag on and his shiny new tennis shoes. “Sammy, I cwied today.”
“Oh buddy, I heard. Were you scared?”
“Yeah. I was scared. I missed Mama. I cwied. All day.”
Oh man. It’s hard enough watching him be scared and nervous, but y’all. Now I had to drop him off in the morning. And again on Monday! That’s it. I guess I’m spending all day in pre-k, too.
The next morning, the second day of school, Chloe barely gave me a “See you later!” before she bounded out of the car. Trey, however, started crying as soon as we pulled into his big sister’s drop-off line. He cried and cried for the next ten minutes and, as I pulled into the pre-k’s parking lot, he asked to talk to his daddy. I called my husband, who listened to Trey patiently cry “Daddy, I just don’t want to go to school” and talked him down. When the two of them hung up, Trey seemed a bit better. No more tears, but oh that little streaked face and those red eyes.
We waited for the school to open (EARLY BIRDS! …Will never happen again.) and he held my hand tightly, looking around at all of the other smiling, happy kids. I was feeling good about this; maybe he won’t cry after all! Maybe all he needed was Daddy’s reassuring words!
Oh he bawled. As soon as we walked in, he started crying. His teacher tried to distract him with play-doh and crayons, but he wanted none of it. He walked with me over to his cubby, hung up his book bag and lunch box and walked back to his desk, crying all the way. There was no grabbing my legs, no begging me to stay, just tears. Lots and lots of tears.
And his mama was right; it was SO hard to leave him. I was fighting back my own tears when I gave him a hug and kiss, told him I loved him and that I would see him later.
“Okay, Sammy,” he sobbed at his desk.
And then I had to walk out. I headed down the hall and could still hear him crying, breaking my heart every step of the way.
I worried about him all day, but when I picked him up that afternoon? Oh the smile on his face. It was enough to float us both over to Chloe’s school a few miles away. “Sammy,” he said, “I cwied this morning, didn’t I? I cwied at naptime, too. But then I didn’t any more!”
But, of course, it wasn’t that easy. The second week of school was rough for him, too and I completely get it. I’ve never been good at change either and I know how scary it can be. He went from spending every day with either his mama or me, having fun and hanging out at home or going on adventures and now he was being dropped off with a bunch of kids he didn’t know, a teacher he didn’t know in a place he had never been before with new rules, routines and things to do. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it! But, obviously, he has to go. And it’s the worst feeling ever to walk out on your crying kid, but it’s one of those things, right? One of those parenting things we just have to do, no matter how much it burns.
But, I’m pleased to announce that those crying days are OVER. In fact, the third week of school was “our time” and as I drove Trey to school that Friday morning, he proudly asked me, “Sammy, do you want to watch me not cry?!”
Every day, buddy. Every day.
Did your kids have a hard time with the first day of school? How long did it take them to feel comfortable?