Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's The FIrst Day All Over Again

The first day of school never gets old for me.  

It's a loaded day....  
   There is nervous energy 
   and curiosity 
   and anxiety 
   and excitement 
   and anticipation 
   and trepidation 
   and fear 
   and joy 
   and sadness 
   and reluctance 
   and the jittery hope of new possibilities 
   all rolled into one.

I loved the first day of school as a kid, 
but I really loved the first day of school as a teacher.
There was nothing like the shiny floors of a freshly scrubbed classroom, complete with clean desks inside and out.  The perfectly put-together bulletin boards were offset by the tidy teacher's desk with neat piles of papers and little containers of paper-clips and stickers with not one out of place.  And then there was the smell - that fresh clean smell of a classroom before any actual humans or rotting lunch remnants entered the room to defile it and make it less than perfect.  I savoured the perfection of that place before the first student entered.

And then they came through the door.

And soon the perfect room became the lived-in room complete with dust and sticky spots, crumpled paper and wet lone socks.  
It wasn't perfect anymore but it contained life.  
And that's the part that I loved.

Now that I've been a mom for awhile, I'm an old hand at this "first day of school" thing.
     Pick the clothes out the night before.
        Be sure the backpacks are packed and ready.
          Pre-pack as much of the lunches as you can.
             Wake up with ample time to ensure any snag will not result in panic.
                Leave time for the traditional picture at the front door.
                  Feel the energy mount and build as you make the drive until it feels like you might explode.
                     Send them on their way with words, squeezes, and "I love you's".
                       Breath deeply and fully.  
                          Feel alone and empty
                              Savour the quiet and the space.
                                  Begin to find your voice again.
                                      Wonder and worry a wee bit.
                                           Be hopeful that the report at the end of the day will be good.
                                                Be amazed at how little you got done.
                                                    Wait with great anticipation to hear how it all went down.

(I think I've got the routine pretty much down-pat.)

Each year I think it's important to offer some parting words to my girls to set the tone for the year and send them off "right".  Each year I say a variation of the same refrain.  It goes a little like this:

"Pick friends you want to be like.  
You become like the people you spend the most time with.

Look for people who are new or lonely and make them feel like they belong.  
You remember what it was like to be new to a school, and the difference one friend made.

Stand up for yourself.  
Know your voice and use it.

Don't keep secrets.  
When things are hard or difficult, tell your teacher and tell me.  
Things always feel better when you're not looking at the hard stuff all alone.

Keep your eyes peeled for your sisters.
If they look like they need a hug or some help be quick to offer it.
You need to be each other's cheerleaders.

Be kind.
Be compassionate.

You can do hard things.  
I believe you can, now you need to believe that you can too."

Those are all good things.  I believe them and want my girls to own them.  No matter what, I'll keep giving them the same song and dance each year as they head to school.  

But the older I get, the more I'm beginning to realize that it's not what's said in that "night before the first day" conversation that really makes the difference. 
 It's every day.  

It's the ride home from school in the van.
It's the snippets of conversation while I'm unloading the dishwasher. 
It's the dinner-time conversation (or lack their of) that tells the real story.
It's the clingy, touch-hungry daughter who shadows you around the house.
It's in seeing and listening more to the things that don't demand my attention or even make a sound.

I get that now.  I get it more than ever.
And somehow that makes me feel better.  
It's not about one, great, rallying speech on one "night before...".
And I'm glad.

Today, just before supper, I caught this moment of Sasha and Hannah recovering from their first days back at school.  

It's about this.....

... and it's not all about me.
And for that I am doubly glad.