The first day of school has come and gone.
Three kids, two schools, several new teachers – there was a lot of “first day” excitement in the air here in our home and I’m sad to say all of the laughter, joy, excitement and anticipation of that day has now passed. I am left with the memory of it all and a new, private emotion that stays with me every day now. An emotion I don’t want to share with my kids because I hate having it myself.
This year is a big year for my oldest child: a new school, a new bus, a new start time and a new routine. Everything about school is different for him this year. He’s handling the changes well, with anticipation not anxiety, I think it’s a little on the early side, I’d like a little more sleep.
As we made breakfast that first morning we went over his schedule, we put his lunch together and packed his backpack. His excitement was palpable. He was really looking forward to meeting his new teachers and seeing who else was in his classes. He was chatty and laughing and pushing me to get him to the bus on time, “We can’t be late Mom! Don’t make me late!”
I was excited for him too, I remember my first day of 7th grade and all of the feelings mentioned already. I’ve always looked at the beginning of the school year like a bonus “New Year.” You get to start fresh, you feel older (because you are older), you feel more mature (because you are more mature), you feel more grown-up (because you are more grown-up) and whether you are or not, you feel more capable of handling all the world is going to bring your way.
All of these things were true for me then and now, for him. Yet, when I look at my son I still see a child, my first baby, who is only twelve. A child who is growing and maturing but still has so much to learn. As he is feeling ready to take on the world, I’m still quietly hoping to protect him and praying the world is kind as he works his way through it.
So the morning draws to a close as we wait for the bus. I wish him good luck and kiss and hug him goodbye (before the bus gets there, of course.) And we wait quietly, peacefully. Within minutes it’s there, the big yellow bus, jolting to a stop, opening its doors and waiting as he and his friends run to get on. As the door closes and the bus drives away, I panic.
“What if this is the last time I see him?”
The sudden fear that overtakes me is crippling and all I want to do is run after that bus and bring him back home. I don’t, of course. I sit there and try to catch my breath, calm my heart and reason with myself. I wipe away my tears and drive home with a pit in my stomach and the question still circling my brain.
“What if this is the last time I see him?”
My whole heart is on that bus. I’m panicked. I know I’m doing the right thing, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m doing what is considered normal and expected. What I’m doing is breaking my heart and filling me with fear. I’m not sending him off to someplace safe. I’m sending him to school. And I’m terrified.
I ask myself, “Have I done enough?” Does he know I love him? In moments of terror and fear will he know that he is loved and will he find peace in that? Will he remember that he can pray and find comfort there? Will he know that he is strong and capable and has been taught how to handle a terrifying circumstance in school? If this is the last time I see him, have I done enough to build his mental and spiritual reserves that he might know peace and love in the midst of terror and fear?
I don’t know if that’s possible.
I spent the rest of the first day of school on the edge of emotion and a little panicky. I can’t share that with my children, they aren’t thinking about school this way. I, on the other hand, can’t help it.
This isn’t a “first day of school” exclusive fear, that’s just when it happened to hit me. I think about it every day and when I’m saying good-bye in the morning I do it with intention and I look my children in the eyes. I hug them tighter and hold them for a second longer. I pray that their day in school is filled with happiness and fun. And I pray that they are safe.
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