Time to read: 2 minutes
I remember my first day of elementary school. New backpack, fancy dress, strange faces. It brings back a happy feeling and puts a smile on my face. I know that some of my memories are built off the photographs my mother snapped before I walked out the door to the bus stop that September day. But I also know that some are honest recollections of sitting in a classroom for the first time, trying to make myself heard in a room full of children who were much louder than me.
I try to keep those memories in my head as I prepare for our two youngest children to start school this fall. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the back-to-school deals and the Pinterest-worthy photo props, but are those the details that our kids will remember? Likely not. They’re probably not even the details we’ll remember. We’ll recall what it felt like to wave goodbye to those little faces, to spend hours waiting to hear how they navigated this milestone without us. In the years to come we’ll remember how our family priorities shifted on that day; my mother still talks of when she realized she was no longer spending her mornings watching Mr. Dress Up because there were no kids in the house!
It’s hard to anticipate what memories will stay with our kids from their first day of school. Some will likely never recall the details, just that overall feeling they come to associate with school. All I can hope is that we’ve given our kids the skills to make sure that feeling is a positive one.
One of the things that helped me feel prepared to send our eldest off to school has having enrolled her part-time in preschool. It gave us a chance to learn to be separated during the day. It gave us both a social circle among the Kindergarten families that we otherwise would not have had. It meant she knew how to go to the washroom on her own, knew how to put her things away properly, knew how to speak up for herself with other kids and with other adults. I believe those skills made our transition – both hers and mine – much easier, and I couldn’t image facing September’s start of school for her younger brothers without having given them those same experiences.
So yes, feel free to spend time picking out the perfect outfit and snapping some social-media-worthy photos of smiling faces behind chalkboard signs, if that’s what comes naturally to your family. But remember it’s also okay if that’s not what the first day of school looks like in your house. In 30 years, when your kids are looking back at this day, they’re most likely to remember an overall feeling, not the little details. So spend your time making sure that feeling is one you both want to remember. Fill your mornings with love, with a touch of silliness, and with as much patience as you can. Focus on calming anxieties, not cowlicks. Trust that you’ve given your child the skills to walk into that classroom and enjoy their independence. And hopefully you’ll all remember the first day of school with a smile in the years to come.
Jenna Morton is the creator of Pickle Planet Moncton, the trusted local resource for families searching for ways to connect with each other and with the community. She also co-owns Grapevine Events and works as a freelance broadcast journalist, social media manager, and contract writer. You can hear her on the Pickle Planet Podcast and read her weekly column in the Times & Transcript.