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First Day of School Blues

I wrote this and then debated whether or not to post it.  I know the onslaught of back-to-school posts are difficult for some to read.  I also know that I haven’t read a post by the parent of an older child who had difficulty with the return to school and I would love to bond with anyone else who has trouble with change.  To post or not to post.  I opted to post, you do not have to opt to read.

I waited until Josh and I got back in the car after the first day of school drop off before I started crying.  I feel this was a step up for me considering how I behaved with the first day of kindergarten and first grade.  He dropped me off back at home and went to work, and I filled the silence of the house by cleaning.  The sort of cleaning where even drains were disassembled and scrubbed.  When the rest of my world feels out of control, you can find me with my spray bottle of bleach and my sponges and my purple rubber gloves.

I went to the food store midway through the day to get ingredients for brownies I was baking for some friends of ours, and when I turned at the end of the baking aisle, there was this father pushing his toddler twins in one of those car-shaped shopping carts and I lost it.  Unfortunately, the aisle I turned blindly into to avoid said twins was the baby-food-and-diaper aisle.  A poor choice.

I sometimes feel as if I (and one other friend — she knows exactly who she is) are the only people in the world who are not thrilled on the first day of school.   I was the only person who didn’t have a Facebook update about how happy I was that the kids were out of the house again.  A bunch of parents were jumping up and down excitedly on the sidewalk outside the school, joking around that they were finally free.  While there may have been another second-grade parent who went home and cried, I have yet to meet that parent face-to-face.  I have to be honest; it makes me feel like a freak.

Please don’t misunderstand me; there is not a chance in hell that these parents love their children less than I love mine.  I am putting that in italics because I want that very very clear.  The fact that they’re jumping for joy doesn’t speak at all to the love they have for their child.  And who doesn’t enjoy a return to a normal schedule after a summer of juggling?  But those parents seem better equipped to weather milestones.  And I sometimes wonder how I became so poor at letting go.

Because I wasn’t always this terrible at letting go.

I should end this by saying that I was ovulating, which always makes me feel like crap emotionally.  I am an evolutionary enigma.  You know how women are supposed to become more desirable and alluring around ovulation, believe themselves to be more beautiful and intelligent?  My brain does the exact opposite.  My self-esteem tanks.  I want to curl up in a ball and ignore the rest of the world.  I feel unattractive and unintelligent.  It’s almost as if my brain gets the message from my ovaries each cycle: “little point, sweetie.  I mean, your reproductive organs don’t work correctly anyway, so why bother plumping and preening when it will NEVER GET YOU PREGNANT.”

So my sadness over the start of school is tempered by the time of the month.  But still, I am writing this post for myself and for any other person out there who saw people jumping for joy on the sidewalk and wondered why they didn’t feel the same way as the majority; as the average parent.  Know there is one other person out there who struggles with the start of school.


1 Pundelina { 09.10.12 at 7:54 am }

I’m happier with the Little Guy at home than at school – I don’t cry on the first day back, but I’d sure prefer it if we could stay together for always! And I know he feels the same, we were walking through a shopping centre the other day and he noticed a toddler walking with his Mum and said that he wished he was little again so that he could stay home and be with me always.

How come time has to pass to quickly?

2 jodifur { 09.10.12 at 7:54 am }

Is it me? I feel like it is me that doesn’t like the start of school. I don’t like school for reasons different that yours…but this isn’t my blog so I’m not going to get into that here.

I’m sorry it is hard for you.

3 Jen { 09.10.12 at 7:55 am }

I found this such a beautiful post about love. About how not everyone experiences it the same way, and how sometimes love and grief and gratitude tinged with loss get all mixed up.

I didn’t celebrate my daughter’s return to school. I miss her being around in the morning. I miss her saying she wants to sit with my in my study while I work, promising she’ll be quiet but not able to resist pouring out all the questions her five year old mind is constantly exploding with. I cannot wait for 3.30 when she rushes in to tell me about her day.

But the look on her face, shining with excitement on day one, and her bubbling chatter overflowing with joy about friendships renewed and drama club and how she loves painting do help.

Giving her up for the day so she can experience all these things which I can’t give her is just another sacrifice. All parents make sacrifices for their children because they love them. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone in finding this one tough – and that there are others who make different sacrifices I can’t see so never speculate about.

4 loribeth { 09.10.12 at 8:26 am }

I guess we’re not FB friends with the same people ; ) because I had more than a few saying they liked having their kids around & weren’t ready to send them back to school, or for summer to be over. I know some parents (WOHMs especially) who are relieved to be back in a routine; others who dislike the school year because everything they want to do with their kids is dictated by the school’s schedule, not their own wishes. Everyone is different!

5 Pale { 09.10.12 at 8:56 am }

I had many people remark that I must be glad/thrilled/relieved that the kids are back to school and I always recoil from the idea. The other day, someone actually asked me instead of assuming my answer and I said, No … I wasn’t glad. They looked surprised.

It’s not that I’m overly clingy — I’m wary of that as a parent because I lived through it as a kid — it’s just that I actually really enjoy those toasty, lush green summer months where we are suspended without pressure to meet outside expectations and where whims can rule our days. I am ~not~ happy to get them off my hands and I related very well to your post from the beach earlier … sand that slips through your fingers that you can’t build anything with … I am okay with their return (it’s a rhythm thing and I know I could never homeschool), but neither do I celebrate ‘getting the kids off my hands.’

We had to decide this year whether to send (newly) Five to kindergarten or do another year of pre-K. It was a complicated, very muddled choice for many reasons … and through all of the ugly deliberation which lasted literally until the first day of elementary … I had to keep checking myself that I wasn’t being biased by wanting to keep longer days with him for my own preference (we did keep him back).

6 Mer { 09.10.12 at 9:22 am }

I work outside the home, so I am not accustomed to spending my days with my kids, but I still struggle with the milestones that come at the end of every summer. My kids are in daycare, and they each moved up to a new room last week, my older one moving to Pre-K. I cried after dropping them off the first morning. Milestones to me are always bittersweet. Am I glad and grateful they are developing into their own people? Absolutely. Does it break my heart a little, particularly knowing I won’t pass this way (through the early years, as we are done with family building efforts) again? Absolutely. You are definitely not alone.

7 Melanie { 09.10.12 at 10:34 am }

As a previous commenter said, we must have a different group or type of FB friends. I didn’t see any statuses of parents that were happy because school was back in session. I saw a lot of proud pictures of their kids on their first day of school. But also a lot of sadness as their children are another year older and that carefree attitude of summer is over. One in particular who said she cried all day long. Her only daughter just started first grade.

My son started preschool last week so I am especially emotional as this is the first time he has ever been in the care of anyone other than family. And for me, the first time that I will not see him making friends, doing art projects, etc. All those special little moments will happen without me? How is that possible? I know you were specifically stating you hadn’t seen any parents of older children feeling that way, so I don’t count. :^P But again, all my friends that are patents of grade school age kids also felt the same way. Sad to see them go, sad to see summer go, sad another year has passed.

I also think it makes a big difference what your work situation and your daily routine is. To a lot of moms summer is difficult as they try and juggle what to do with their kids doing the day.

8 tigger62077 { 09.10.12 at 11:05 am }

My kid isn’t in school but he is in daycare…now. For the first time in his short little life. Last fall semester, I was able to leave him with a friend for a few hours twice a week, my husband watched him twice a week, and my MIL watched him once a week while I was in school. This past spring semester, my classes all lined up to only twice a week, so my husband and my MIL were able to watch him. This semester…my classes are in the middle of the day, 4 days a week, when everyone is working or in school themselves. The Boy is in daycare 3x a week (and MIL watched him once!). I was so hesitant about dropping him off. What if he cried the whole time? What if he just stood at the door waiting for me (which is not beyond the realm of possibility for him)? What if he liked it? What if he didn’t miss me at all? It turns out that he whined for a bit, took a nap, and generally had fun…but was very happy to see his mama when she came to get him. 🙂 It’s been getting worse when I drop him off, but this is only the 3rd week. I am hoping that it starts getting better soon.

Most of the people on my feed either don’t have kids, or their kids are grown. There are a couple students like me who have kids and we’re mostly complaining about US going back to school. I’ve also got a few teachers, who are stressing about being back in classes. I don’t think I’ve seen many of my parents of school age children say anything one way or another…which seems odd, now that I think about it.

9 Ellen { 09.10.12 at 11:15 am }

So so sad. My son is an only child, and I’ve always been his best friend. I know that can’t last, nor should it, but watching him grow up is delightful and painful at the same time. This week, his first in kindergarten, taking a bus with sixth graders, I have been miserable. My little baby, my sweet boy, my only child.

10 k { 09.10.12 at 11:45 am }

Very sad here too. I have two first graders, and while I know in my head that being back at school is good for them, and that’s evidenced by how much they look forward to it, to me it’s evidence of time passing, of them growing up. I don’t like it, and I want to curl up with them at home and watch Disney movies instead.

11 Brid { 09.10.12 at 12:39 pm }

Seems you’re normal; not a freak. So, that’s good!
Jack started Gr. 3 this year, and I was ON THE EDGE! I had to break mid-conversation with his new teacher (before the first bell of the year) because I could feel my nose heating up and the tears beginning to well… Funny thing, she was suffering the same symptoms!
So I submit, this will be my routine for the first day of the school year, and the last day as well, which I find equally as difficult (if not more as we say goodbye to lovely teachers and younger grades). I was never a crier, choker-upper before Jack, but now, well your post set me off too! Perhaps it’s harder…. because I realise we will very likely never have another little one… that was the only day of my life that I will ever take a child of mine to his first day of Gr. 3. Solemn.

12 Mel { 09.10.12 at 1:24 pm }

I need to get new Facebook friends (just kidding! just kidding!). I remember a breakfast they held at the preschool where parents could collect themselves and have a muffin on the first day of school before heading out. It was even called something like the “sniffles breakfast” with the acknowledgement that leaving your kids at school is hard. But I was the only parent actually crying. Everyone else chatted with other parents, making friends. Hanging out with people they knew from their neighbourhood.

And that scene has replayed in various forms every year. More than Facebook, it was the people around me at drop off. I didn’t see one other person crying as they walked back to their car. Which isn’t to say that they weren’t sad — we all express sadness in different ways, and I’m quick to cry if I feel sad. But I also saw a lot of people with huge grins that day. And I get it — people are creatures of habit and we like our schedules. Summer can be hard to get things accomplished when you’re thrown off the schedule you keep 9 months out of the year. But I guess I’m wondering less about THEM since their behaviour seems to be the norm, and more about me, since my behaviour seems to be abnormal (crying, etc).

13 MaLa { 09.10.12 at 2:00 pm }

Interesting … virtually all my Facebook friends w/ kids seemed very sad that the school year was starting …

14 lifeintheshwa { 09.10.12 at 2:10 pm }

First day of Junior Kindergarten here and my eyes are dry, but if DS had lost it, I would have too. It’s also a day where I’m waiting for AF to show so I expected to be a complete effing disaster but so far, so good, and very much to my shock!

15 Michele { 09.10.12 at 2:12 pm }

My twins start preschool (2 mornings a week) tomorrow, and I’m aching already (and have been since we made the decision in January). I hear parents talking about how they cant wait and, while I am excited for the kids, the idea of them being “in school” makes me want to bawl. Part of it is that the journey was so hard fought, part of it is the feeling that this wont be the ‘first first day’ until the next child… this is the ‘first first day’ period. So, I hear you.

Big hugs your way…

16 Shelli { 09.10.12 at 2:15 pm }

I feel EXACTLY the same way. I hate being away from my son, which makes me sound a little clingy. Maybe because he’s my only… maybe because I work outside of the home and value every moment I have day to day… I don’t know. A few ladies at my bus stop were talking about (celebrating) going out for mimosas after the first pickup, and I was perplexed? I think. He’s in 4th grade now and I haven’t had one “first” day that I felt like having a party. 🙂

17 Turia { 09.10.12 at 2:32 pm }

I can’t speak from experience, given E. is only 16 months, but I just wanted to post to say that reading your post and the comments is making me get all teary eyed about the idea that one day he’ll be in school and not at home with me.

I think it is wonderful you have such a great relationship with your kids that you can miss them that much.

18 KeAnne { 09.10.12 at 2:45 pm }

I know I posted on my blog that I really relish the 20-minute commute to and from work to daycare because I am alone, but walking out of daycare every morning is hard and I love walking down the hall to pick him up. I’ve a sentimental person, and I know that I will greet each first day of school with tears.

I remember at our “Tissues and Tears” session at our previous preschool, one of the moms said, “when can we just drop them off and leave? Because I am sooo ready.” My husband and I were appalled. I mean, yeah, she had a younger child and probably could use that time to do other things, but I couldn’t get over her eagerness to drop off her child and leave. That’s not us.

19 a { 09.10.12 at 3:20 pm }

I have 2 levels worth of not liking the return to school. The first level is that it puts a crimp in my plans! I have Mondays off, and I like to do our special trips (to the mall, to the zoo, etc) on Mondays when things are less crowded. Now I can’t do that. Sure, I can go shopping on my own, without someone whining about how they want to go somewhere else, but I miss my little shadow. The second level is more complex – I’m not bothered by the milestone aspect, per se. I’m always pleased when my girl hits her new milestones, learns new things, expands her universe. I love that. But with school, for some reason, it’s making me see far into the future when she gets to those not-so-pleasant milestones – no more sitting on my lap all the time, no more 7000 kisses a day, no more silly jokes and much more eye-rolling, middle school, jr. high, high school…and eventually she’s going to leave me. Hmmm…guess I shouldn’t have gone to the retirement seminar so close to the start of school, as contemplating my own mortality is probably not helping. Sigh…

Anyway, you should probably look around at pick-up time, because I noticed on the first day that the parents of the older kids were all anxiously awaiting their children. So maybe they’re playing it off at drop-off, but at pick-up, you can almost see the relief on their faces when the kids start coming out of the school.

(And don’t forget – some people cover their anxiety by talking to other people. Maybe they’re not really relaxed and making friend. Also, damn! Your schools start late too – we’ve been in school for a month already!)

20 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.10.12 at 3:30 pm }

I’m sorry that you were (are?) feeling so sad. I am sending you a big hug.

Now, will you send me a homemade brownie?


21 jjiraffe { 09.10.12 at 3:37 pm }

You are most definitely not alone. I cried the first day of pre-school, a really ugly cry, not the cute tears. I was wearing sunglasses. And I had to pull into a parking lot and really cry. I was so embarrassed about this. I cried the first day of CAMP! That was ridiculous. This summer, I did everything by myself except for two weeks of camp and I just loved having the kids be around. Next year is kindergarten. I don’t even want to think about that.

22 Brid { 09.10.12 at 4:21 pm }

I cry at assemblies and sports days! So does our principal… she writes poems about the kids and cries all the way through!

23 Sunny { 09.10.12 at 6:40 pm }

Hugs to you, and thank you. My oldest is starting the final year of preschool, and I’m already in tears thinking about him being gone ALL DAY next fall when he starts kindergarten. And the thought of my youngest starting school?

Let’s not even go there.

24 Mali { 09.10.12 at 11:18 pm }

I hope you’re feeling better by now. I’m glad you posted this – not just to help someone else who might be feeling emotional too, but so that you get the love and support you need and deserve. (I realised how far I’d come when I saw your blog title and clicked on it anyway!)

I don’t like the first day of school either – but that’s usually cos I forget how bad the traffic’s going to be, and end up being late! (And of course, for us, the first day of school is February).

25 Justine { 09.11.12 at 10:06 pm }

Here I am catching up on posts at long last. I was crying, too … and I find something oddly upsetting about those FB posts or advertisements about “hooray kids back in school.” I miss having my son around. And though I’m wishing I were employed, I’m also glad that I’ve had this chance to be home with him before he leaves and after he gets off the bus. When I was working full time, I made a point of taking off on Fridays in the summer to spend just with him, and we would always do something fun/educational together. And I always cried when school started again, knowing that I was losing that time with him. I missed that entirely this summer, because his sister isn’t as portable as he is (unless I put a leash on her, which seems unnecessarily cruel, even if it’s practical), and we couldn’t go without her … so watching him go was even harder than usual.

I made brownies, too. Except I ate mine.

26 Meim { 09.13.12 at 4:02 am }


My oldest daughter just started 5th grade, and I am always an emotional wreck the first week back to school. The sadness lasts a lot longer, but the tears are usually dry by the second week.

It’s hard to say where the emotions come from, but they begin with me just plain missing her. I bothers me that I can’t talk to her whenever I want, and that I don’t get to see all of her daily discoveries first hand. I feel like I am missing out. Back-to-school kicks my anxiety into high gear, too. The thought of her spending nearly 8 hours with a total stranger, makes me completely crazy. Then there is always the thoughts about how “grown up” she is. Oy.

I have never understood the celebrations about going back to school. I anticipate this time of year with dread.

27 Mic at K Street (Formerly IF Crossroads) { 09.13.12 at 7:49 pm }

I cry everyday I drop K off at daycare and she’s past the age of 2. I know I’ll cry at each “first” day of school — I’m not good with transitions either. xo

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