Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New First Steps

Theoretically, it should have been easy. I never stopped working, which means that for the last five years my little girl has been attending some kind daycare situation. We had a wonderful first three months together (thanks to my perfectly timed April delivery which extended my maternity leave into the summer months) and then she was off to a wonderful in-home daycare. Because of moves and circumstances beyond our control, she has moved around some, but for the last two years (her preschool years) she has been attending the same daycare as her little brother. I have dropped her off in the morning for a day of learning, snacks, and play. And then during the summer months she has been at home with me.

Everything changed today. Today my baby girl started Kindergarten. I remember when I started Kindergarten 30 years ago. That was back when a half day of school was the standard. I started school with a couple of my preschool classmates and my childhood best friend was a little girl who I also went to church with. I had a small group of ready made friends but quickly made more. We spent our mornings learning things that my daughter was learning to do in preschool. My afternoons were free. But it was still the start of my academic career. By the time the year was over I could read and do simple math and thanks to the wonderful teachers at our inner city Detroit Lutheran school, I had a strong foundation for later, weaker years of education. I was loved by my teachers and they daily shared both knowledge and the love of Christ. But it was me. I was the one growing up, not my little girl. I was the one looking forward to my future and the world that was opening up in front of me, not my little girl.

I am excited to see my little girl grow up. I am excited to see what God has in store for her. I am excited to see her grow and mature in knowledge and faith. I am excited to see her excitement when she reads her very first chapter book on her own or to read the very first story that she writes on her own without me spelling every single word out for her. I am excited to watch her school plays and concerts. I am excited to see her learn new things about the world around her in both science and social studies. I am excited to see the relationships she will build with her new classmates. But I'm also sad. I am sad because this is a new first step into more independence. As parents we walk this fine line of eagerly waiting for the day that our children do not need us to do certain things for them (i.e. change their diapers, spoon feed them, tie shoes, dress them) and sadness when they reach those milestones and they need us less. I know that we never stop needing our parents. Even as adults we never stop needing our parents. But those needs change and become less frequent, less pressing.

And then there is the realization that this change is also a change in my responsibilities as a parent and that scares me. I am seriously afraid that I am going to become the parent that drives me, the teacher, crazy. When she was in preschool I couldn't remember to sign permission forms and turn in book orders on time. During registration two days ago there was so much paperwork that I was overwhelmed. How was I going to keep everything straight? I have to remember lunch (which was always covered by daycare), have to get her up in time to eat some breakfast (which has proven to be a difficult task since she was born), have to help with homework and make sure that she is given the time to do it, and have to figure out drop off and pick up at two different locations for two years while we wait for our son to enter Kindergarten. And that is just the stuff that I know about. We are entering the unknown and it is just as scary for Mommy as it is for daughter. Possibly more so.

I know that she will be fine. Just like me, she has a little girl in her class who she went to preschool with and they were thrilled to be reunited during registration. Maybe she will become my daughter's childhood best friend. My baby girl is a sweet, smart, and talented little girl who will thrive. But that doesn't change the fact that this is much harder than I anticipated it would be five years ago. So for now I will pray for her, as I did last night when I was running around the block. And today I will be thankful that her little brother still has two more years of early childhood. We'll just drag that one out for as long as we can.

Here I am on the first day of Kindergarten in 1984.
Here is my daughter on the first day of school in 2014.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This Is When It Gets Hard

I am a wife, a mother, and a teacher. They are three vocations (not jobs) that I relish. They make me who I am, and without one of those vocations I don't feel complete. But this is the time of year when those three vocations collide in uncomfortable ways: the beginning of the school year.

As usual, this summer has been fantastic, and as I noted last year, the older my kids get, the more enjoyable that summer time is. And this summer was packed. We camped, both kids had swimming lessons, my daughter went to two day camps, and I spent the majority of the summer purging and selling a much as I could through Facebook garage sale groups. We went to the park, to the drive-in, and hung out. It was a good summer for all of us. During one weekend camping trip my daughter asked my husband why he couldn't be a teacher. She wanted to camp for longer and knew that if Daddy also had the summer off she wouldn't have to go home yet. We laughed at the idea of my computer nerd of a husband being a teacher but also enjoyed our daughter's sweet sentiment. She just wanted to spend more time with her whole family.

Contrary to popular belief, most teachers don't take the whole summer off. There are workshops, summer assignments, summer school, professional reading, and getting everything done that doesn't get done during the school year. Really, when you are working anywhere between 50-70 hours in a given school week, depending on the time of the year, a lot gets neglected during the school year. That includes quality time with our kids. But we working moms who are teachers are blessed. We get to spend our summer months with our kids, a luxury that our fellow non-teacher working moms do not have. I can take my kids to work with me during the summer. I can grade summer reading assignments with them sitting next to me on the couch (thanks to the Internet). And I have a lot more time for them. Nights can get later without worrying about getting them up in time for daycare and work the next morning. I don't have to worry about staying on a strict schedule (with the exception of things like swimming lessons and day camp). I honestly have a hard time flipping that switch at the beginning of the summer and by the end of summer I am ready for routine again, but the in-between time is awesome.

Then we have to go back to school. My daughter has always gone with the flow and this year things change again because she is starting kindergarten, which means a new schedule and routine for the three of us as we get ready in the morning. But my son has never been good about getting back into routine. He thrives on routine but he prefers that his routine include Mommy. So this week has been hard. REALLY hard. We've had two mornings of kicking, screaming, and tears. He doesn't want to go back to school. He wants to go to school with Mommy. I'm beginning to think that those couple of days hanging out with just me last week while his sister was at day camp spoiled both of us. He played in my room, watched movies, and took naps on my floor. The last two mornings have been hard on me too. I don't like seeing my baby upset. I love that he wants to be with me. And I'm frustrated because his tantrums and tears are keeping me from a tight morning schedule. This is when the guilt and frustration gets to be a little much. This is when I question one of my three vocations.

And yet I'm still excited for a new year. I know that in the next couple of weeks things will settle down. My son will be back in his routine, my daughter will be thriving in Kindergarten, and I will be living it up talking about composition, rhetoric, and literature. But until then I am once again reminded that this is when the job is hard. This is when it feels more like a job than a vocation. But I know that this what I am called to do. I am called to be a wife, mom, AND a teacher. And with God's help, we will make it through the start of another school year.