When back-to-school is best but also terrifying
“I’m so bored,” Georgia said last week, kicking an abandoned toy across the floor. “You’re back at school. Sis is back at school. All my neighborhood friends are back at school. I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”
“I know,” I told her. “School is starting soon.”
“WHEN CAN I GO TO SCHOOL?!” she demanded a few days later. “I HAVE NOTHING TO DOOOOO!”
“Soon,” I said. “Next week, boo. School is about to start.”
“Can I try on my uniform?” she asked over the weekend. “Just to practice for school?”
“Of course,” I said, and we got the whole uniform ready to go for later this week.
Then last night, as I put her to bed, she looked up at me, eyes even more huge than usual.
“I’m scared,” she said. “I don’t want to start school.”
“What are you talking about, goofball?” I asked. “For like a week, all you’ve talked about is how much you wanted to go back to school.”
“I know,” she said, lip quivering, eyes welling, a perfect picture of blue-eyed 9-year-old angst. “It doesn’t make sense, but I want two things at once. Is that normal?”
My sweet baby. Yes, of course, it’s normal, I told her. And of course it is.
I want her to start school, too, very much. I want the routine to structure our days. I want the work to challenge her in ways that watching endless Disney reruns of “Descendants: The Royal Wedding” just doesn’t. I want her to be surrounded by friends instead of lounging around the house and demanding constant snacks.
But I also don’t want her to start school, very much. It’s not just that I love the relaxed pace of summer, enjoy slipping out the door to work while she gets to sleep in, unencumbered by backpacks and lunch boxes, not screaming over my shoulder to remember to put on shoes. It’s also the incredibly real stress and fear over sending my too-young-to-be-vaccinated child back to school in the middle of the worst COVID surge we’ve seen.
I know the good outweighs the bad, and I know she needs in-person school. She is not only a social butterfly but also a kid with ADHD and dysgraphia who needs the extra support of a classroom setting.
I have to take a step back, draw a deep breath, and take a leap of faith that all will be OK and that she will be safe. In many ways, it’s no different than what all parents do with children all day, every day, forever.
It will (probably) be OK. It is (absolutely) scary. Those are two truths I have to hold close.
Last night, though, I just pulled her close and held her tight and snuffled into her lavender-shampoo-scented hair and listened to her breathe until she fell asleep.
Be safe out there, everyone. And happy/sad/bittersweet back-to-school.