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You Never Get Used to the First Day of School

Thirteen first days.

When I add up each of my children’s first days of daycare, preschool and elementary school that’s what I get. That’s 13 goodbyes, some of them through misty eyes. That’s 13 sets of teachers to whom I’ve entrusted the care of my children. That’s 13 rounds of anticipation and worry, 13 adjustments to be made.

No matter how many first days you experience as a parent, you never get used to the idea.


You might think that the first day of school gets easier for veteran parents. Not true. It’s bittersweet no matter how many times you’ve experienced it: your child, who was just yesterday an infant, is one step closer to leaving the proverbial nest.

And yes— it’s a happy time too. I can’t deny that I’ve been counting down the waning summer days so that I’d have more time to focus on my work and interests. The regularity of the school schedule just works for our family.

That said, the truth is this: Even if you’ve done it as much as I have, saying goodbye to your little ones never loses its sting.

This morning I walked my 3- and 5-year-olds into their sweet, familiar little preschool. I said my goodbyes to my son, who has attended this particular preschool since age 2. He was a little quieter than usual this morning and stuck close to my side, but he didn’t seem upset when I left him.

My 3-year-old, on the other hand, had a much harder time. I sat with her in her new classroom and spoke with her teacher for a moment before saying goodbye. She started to cry in that heart-wrenching way that toddlers sometimes do, and my heart broke. As the director had told parents to do during the orientation, I said another “confident goodbye” and promptly left.

But.

I stood outside the closed door to her classroom and couldn’t help but crying myself. At home I distracted myself with work until it was time to pick her up a few hours later. And I’ll admit it: I had to fight the urge to call and check on her during that time. When I picked them up they both reported having a great first day, and they’re eager to go back tomorrow. Now I just have to talk myself into that same eagerness.

Preschool is a wonderful, safe environment where children are able to develop new skills and make friends. I know that it’s good for them to develop relationships with non-family member adults, and to gain confidence and independence. No matter how many times I’ve been through it, I struggle through the first few days.

Thirteen first days are under my belt. I have a feeling, though, that I’ll be giving myself this same pep talk when it’s been 14, 15, or 25.

Do you struggle with sending your child back to school or preschool?

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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