Ready or Not


I cried the first time I dropped my child off at day care when she was 9 months old. I didn’t know if she would eat baby food (she had terrible reflux) or whether the day care provider could handle the cloth diapers she had to wear due to sensitive skin.

She was fine.

I cried the first time I dropped her off at Kiddee Korner on Orleans Avenue in January 2008, having taken a leap of faith, moved to post-Katrina New Orleans without child care, and managed to find Kiddee Korner at the 11th hour. I still remember the overalls and striped pink sweater I sent her in, on the mild chill of a NOLA winter day, her monogrammed nap mat in hand, all sorts of cautionary words dying on my lips so as not to look like the insane high-maintenance parent I was.

She toddled away from me without a look back, and she was fine.

I absolutely cried on her first day of pre-K4 at Morris Jeff. I was doing OK until she came back for an extra hug and then tried to firm up her crumpling chin and march bravely into the building. I smiled and waved cheerfully until she was out of sight … and then I collapsed, sobbing hysterically, into my mother’s arms. My mother, surprised by the intensity of my reaction, patted me on the back with a look of bewilderment.

But my child? She was fine. When I picked her up that first day, she’d already forgotten her fears. She’d made dozens of friends and loved her teacher and was ready to face the next day and the day after that.

Then there was her first day of third grade at St. Martin’s. I cried then, too, a bit, but I’d hardened my heart to some extent at that point.

Her first day of eighth grade at Lusher was a big meh, as it was entirely virtual, completed in my living room, thanks to COVID, and I would’ve cried at her eighth grade graduation, I’m quite sure, particularly if there had been a montage (I’m a complete sucker for a montage), but she didn’t get a graduation at all, again thanks to COVID.

And now? We’re here.

It’s now her first day of high school, unimaginably. My child will be a ninth grader at Ben Franklin, which is both my alma mater and my employer.

I have been too overwhelmed with the start of school from a professional perspective (as well as the current COVID hellscape) to really even process it on a personal level.

Which is just as well because if I did, I would probably want to fall sobbing into my mother’s arms again, and that – suddenly and devastatingly – is no longer an option.

But it’s happening, ready or not (and I’m probably not). It’s her last first day of a new school … at least until college.

I will make it through. I will be brave while she heads to homeroom and then Latin and then geometry.

And maybe I’ll be happy and proud all day long … and then end the day by having a good, long cry all alone in the bathtub. Or maybe I won’t cry at all. Or maybe I’ll duck down under my desk, out of view of the window, and cry in my office.

It’s back to school time, y’all.

Get your tissues ready. Here we go.



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