Both girls are back in school this week. Stella woke up at 6 a.m. yesterday, ready to dash out the door and wait for the bus. “I’ve tried to go back to sleep,” she whispered, “but I can’t.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “You can get ready.”
I’ve never seen her brush her hair and teeth so fast. And then she was dressed, had eaten breakfast and triple-checked her backpack. Photos were taken and more photos were taken until finally she rolled her eyes and said, “Okay, mom. Okay, okay.” And then she was off, running to the bus stop, thrilled to be, as she had mentioned the day before, an “official first grader.”
Zoë’s transition was a little more challenging. As I drove her to preschool, she started to cry. “Don’t want to go to school,” she wailed. “I stay home. I tired. I take a nappy.” Poor kid. She thought I’d let her stay home if she slept all day.
Then she said, “I want Stella go to school wit me.” And every time we saw a school bus, she said, “Stella in there?” That killed me.
I tried to point out the big diggers at a construction site. I tried to tell her how excited her school friends and teachers would be to see her again. None of it worked. I had to pry her from my body and hand her off to her teachers when we got to school. The last thing I saw was her red, tear-stained face over the shoulder of one of her teachers. I felt sick as I drove to the coffee shop.
The truth is that I’m thrilled to have longer stretches of time to work. I love having a set schedule, knowing exactly how many hours a week I can prepare my classes and write. I love having time to run during the day a few times a week. And I know Zoë will adjust. This morning was already smoother (though she still offered to stay home and nap). She said, “No, I not go to school. I just stay here with you.”
“But I have to go to work, sweetie.”
She shook her head. “No, you not go to work.”
“Mommy always comes back for you,” I said, reminding her of the Hap Palmer song she loves.
“Just like Baby Songs,” she said.
“Just like that,” I agreed.
And instead of tears when I dropped her off, she just buried her face in my shoulder and told me she was shy.
“That’s okay, sweetie. You’ll feel like playing soon.”
She was probably zooming down the slide a few minutes after I drove away, so I shouldn’t feel so melancholy. And I know this heaviness is about more than leaving a sad daughter at daycare; it’s about the way the start of the school year marks the end of summer, the passing of another year. In a minute, Zoë will be rolling her eyes at me and running to the bus behind Stella, and I can’t even imagine what Stella will be doing. And I’ll probably have more writing time than I ever wanted. I should be careful what I wish for.
How is the transition back to school for those of you who have little ones?