Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Start of School Blues

I am always over joyed when its Back To School Time: if you've been reading this blog, you'll have heard of little else but how I've been counting down the minutes til the first day. But I also realize that all of September and much of October, probably, will be a big old bust as my transition-averse children get acclimated to their new class teacher, and routine. I have heard tell of children who actually enjoy starting the new school year, are actually chomping at the bit to get started, relish the prospect of making new friends, discovering how the new system works, all that jazz. I'm sure these children do exist. In fact, it is a distinct possibility that I was one of these students.

Now that I think about it, I remember the summer before freshman year of college started and I got a letter giving me the name and phone number of the girl I'd soon be roommates with. I called her that night, so cheery and full of perky pep, I'm not sure she could make out my high-frequency squeaks. In the first minute or two of our phone convo, I listed all my main interests, my background, my aspirations. She said little to nothing, being the dark, brooding poetry-writing type. We would go on to become best friends, an unlikely pair. She told me later, though, that she was at first mortified by my cheery friendliness and after she met me, on the first day of school, she wrote a poem about the horrifying experience. She sat on her extra-long twin bed with a sulky experience on her face, since she'd had to part with her long-term boyfriend who went to NYU, while her mom helped her unpack a few small suitcases. Meanwhile, my mother had put on surgical gloves and was scrubbing Clorox over every surface of my side of the room, my father was drilling screws into the wall to affix power strips for my mammoth IBM desktop computer (remember how massive they used to be?) and using insane amounts of electrical tape to tie all the cords together. My 7 year-old sister played hide and go seek in the closets. And I set about covering every inch of the room with posters and photographs, all the while chatting with her -- ok, AT her -- about what we wanted to major in, what kind of clubs we might join, if she had gone on any orientation trips. I was nervous, sure, but the main thing I felt was excitement.

I am fairly certain I would not feel the same way today. Somehow, over the years, I've become gradually more neurotic, acerbic and skeptical. Not sure when it occurred exactly, but now I am more Woody Allen than Pollyanna. Unsurprisingly, my kids are the same way. They are always assuming they'll get the worst teacher, end up in class with the worst bullies, have the hardest homework, get the fuzziest end of the lollipop. And it takes until Halloween for them to either confirm that this did, in fact, happen or to discern that they've dodged the bullet -- this time at least.

Poor Seconda began preK in the big public school where her brother's been for the past two years, and while this is fantastic for me and my checking account, it does take a bit of getting used to on her part. There is nap time which is nothing short of a nightmare for Sec, who hasn't napped literally since she was 2 years old, and who is constitutionally incapable of quiet contemplation. There are lots of organized activities which comes as a jarring surprise after her Montessori, self-directed days of free time. And there's lots of new kids, which she assumes are rivals until they are proven otherwise. I'm guessing she'll be acclimating until Christmastime.

But, regardless of how cranky and non-compliant they may be after a long day of adjusting to school, I still get SIX HOURS of kid-free time to work. Which is sublime. So I'll happily accept the start-of-school blues as the price tag. No argument.