My newsfeed was filled with an endless stream of the adorable first day of school photos. All the kiddos in their favorite outfits, some holding cute signs, all the smiles. Their joyful anticipation and excitement easy to see. I cried as I scrolled through them.
I didn’t get that picture of my boy. I had snuck out of the house early as I had done each school year prior to mark the occasion in chalk by the front steps. A photo on the step before heading to the bus stop has been our tradition. But this year the anxiety stole his smile and he couldn’t fake one. He just couldn’t.
On the first day of kindergarten, I took selfies of us making our best goofy faces, a shameless attempt to keep myself from crying before he got on the bus. It worked, I have the picture of him smiling by the chalk First Day of K! On the first day of first grade, he confidently got on the bus with a red Mohawk and I marveled at where my shy little guy had gone.
During the course of first-grade, I experienced my hardest days as a mom so far. Anxiety crept into our lives. It brought with it pleas to be homeschooled. Too many times my sweet boy would force himself up those bus steps with tears in his eyes and an ache in his tummy. It was absolute torture for us both. His teacher would tell me he did great once at school, which was such a relief because those mornings left me completely undone. But we got through it.
I think we were both a bit apprehensive at the start of second grade, but he posed for the obligatory photo opp looking confident. We ended the year with only a few of those gut wrenching mornings. So when the first day of third grade rolled around I thought it would be easy. I was, maybe we both were blindsided by first day jitters. The tummy ache and tear filled eyes were back. I did my best to calm his nerves as a fellow hater of first days, but it was tough, especially since it snuck up on us. The bus doesn’t wait and it was time to go. He once again forced himself up the steps of the bus. I can only hope that once he saw familiar faces who were happy to see him that it got easier. I walked home from the bus stop feeling heartbroken. I sat on our front steps and cried. I contemplated getting the hose out to wash away the colorful chalk. It seemed a sad reminder of a difficult morning.
I had filled my day with appointments, so I couldn’t stay stuck for too long. I prayed that my boy would know God was with him and I pleaded with God to calm my boy. That was all I could do. As I moved through the day I wondered how he was doing and was eager to greet him at the bus stop. He stepped off the bus a much different kid than he’d been in the morning. He was ready to smile by the chalk letters now.
Not everyone loves newness and change. It can be unsettling. On this day we both kept moving forward despite our desire to stay home where it was safe and familiar. Every other morning of the school year was no big deal. He regularly proclaimed his dislike for school, but I think he grudgingly liked it. It was a good year.
As the first day of fourth-grade approaches, I will try to be better prepared for any anxiety that bubbles up. Soon enough we will fill the backpack and pick out the new clothes. I will again craft a little saying in chalk on the sidewalk. If all goes well we’ll take a picture and he’ll have some swagger as he gets on the bus. But if the picture has to wait until after school, that’s perfectly fine too because first days can be hard.