Ah, the first day of school. It is probably the most hectic day on the school calendar. It would seem that Open House held the week before would ensure every child knows where they should be. But on that first day all those hallways look the same, and they seem to have multiplied during the night. And the hallways weren't the only thing multiplying. A classroom may have 20 students, but each student arrives with a family of support on that first day. Then there's the traffic. Of course, McDuffie County has a fine array of buses to transport the children to school. But first-day jitters force parents to drive their children. I'm sure those directing traffic would swear they direct five cars per one child. The great thing about the confusion is that it evolves until it disappears. In two weeks, the halls will be empty and the classrooms full.
Walking through the schools last Monday brought back memories of my first-day experience as a mother. I was a stay-at-home mom back in those days, driving to playgrounds and picnics, the library for story time, wading-pool parties and swimming lessons. I knew the effects of over-protective parenting, but letting him go was not as easy as I'd imagined. My child, however, was ready for this next phase of his life. The pint-sized, tow-headed child was braver than his mother that day, as he hopped out of the car with his Atlanta Braves backpack and proudly walked to his classroom, leaving his mother to fret. I don't know what I worried about. I kept telling myself that the teachers were kind and capable, and that millions of children before mine had entered kindergarten and lived to tell about it. I thought I had myself convinced, until later that afternoon when I returned to the same carline to pick him up. As the teacher opened the car door, James climbed into the front seat (this was before airbags) and took one look at my face and said, "Mom, I'm fine. I had a great day." The encouraging words should have brought a sigh of relief, but instead brought a gully of tears. I hadn't realized the stress I was hiding until that moment. But I was smiling through the tears. "Of course you did," I replied. "I knew you would." After all, wasn't it what I had spent the previous five years preparing him for? I looked in the rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of his baby brother strapped in his carseat behind me. Four more years, and I'd be doing this again. When the time came, I was experienced. Instead of waiting until I picked him up, I cried as soon as I dropped him off. The rest of the day was a breeze.