Surviving Milestones: Reflections on the First Day of School

Sam baby smiles

My little boy, age six months

It’s never easy, watching him walk out the door on the first day of school. Every first day takes him one step closer to adulthood and further away from me. He grew and changed so much during his freshman year of high school. I am so proud of the young man I see before me, but I ache for the little boy who wanted nothing more than to hold my hand.

That little boy is now several inches taller than me and wears the same size shoes as his father. This morning when I asked to take his photo, he politely indulged me. He let me give him a hug before he left, and I even managed to plant a good-bye kiss on his cheek. I teased him about how tough it must be to have a mom who loves him so much and makes a big deal out of everything. But even though I know it annoys him sometimes, I won’t stop. In just three years, he will start college. The time is going to zip by, and I plan to savor and make the most of it. I will grasp firmly to each of the little moments. I will photograph them and tuck them away in my mind. I can only imagine how much I am going to need them later.

No one tells you before you have children what it feels like to watch them grow up, how your heart aches with every milestone. Even if someone does try to prepare you, I don’t think it’s something you can understand until you experience it. The first day of preschool, when the teacher has to practically peel your child out of the back seat, wrecks you, but it could not possibly compare to putting him on the bus for kindergarten the first time. Eighth-grade graduation, when you see your kid in a cap and gown accepting a diploma, blows your mind a little, but it’s got nothing on the first day of high school. The big moments don’t get any easier because with each one you realize your child needs you a little less.

It’s never easy, watching him walk out the door on the first day of school. I cried a little this morning. I always do. I know that the biggest milestones, high school graduation and the first day of college, are right around the corner. I know he will be ready. He is a bright, confident young man, but I still see in him that little boy who wanted nothing more than to hold my hand. I’m not ready to let him go. I don’t know if I ever will be.

My sophomore

My sophomore, age 15


Bad Case of Sunday Blues

I remember sitting on the couch as a child, happily playing with my Colorforms or Barbies, when suddenly a wave of fear and sadness would wash over me. It was Sunday evening, and the clock was ticking away to the end of the weekend. I could feel the dread in the pit of my stomach as I anticipated the events of the next day.

Monday meant leaving the safety and comfort of home for the scary uncertainty of school. Would the mean girl on the bus who was twice my size tell me she hated me and glare at me from across the aisle? Would I get in trouble with the teacher for talking too much in class? Would the queen bee of the playground welcome me into the fold or would I wind up alone on the swingset?

I hated Sunday because it meant Monday was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Even though it’s no longer me who has to face school in the morning, I still dread Monday’s arrival. Monday means my kids venture out into the world where I have no control over their safety or comfort. What if the carpool driver or bus taking them to school gets into an accident? What if they fail a test? What if they are excluded at the lunch table? These thoughts plague me every day as they walk out the door, but especially on Monday.

Why are Mondays the hardest? After the kids head off to school, my husband goes to work, and it’s just me and the dog at home. My abandonment issues kick into high gear because after spending two days with the three people I love the most, they all leave me behind. It sounds silly, I know. They have to go, and it’s not as if they aren’t coming back. Mondays just make me realize how much I hate it when they’re gone.

I have yet to come up with a way to make the Sunday blues disappear entirely, but spending the evening together as a family definitely helps. Usually the four of us hang out in the kitchen and make a special dinner. We try to come up with a new recipe or we make something that requires extra time and isn’t conducive to our weeknight schedule crunch.

After a Sunday evening of laughing, talking and eating with my family, Monday doesn’t feel quite so ominous. The family bonding makes it a little easier when everyone walks out the door the next morning. But I still can’t wait for them all to come home.

Do you suffer from “Sunday night syndrome”? How do you cope?