Back-to-school time is here, yet again and the vibe in the old Widdahood is that we’re all struggling. It occurred to me this year (yes, it’s taken me 4 years to figure this out) that this time of the year...well....
This is yet again one of those “Milestone Moments” (also known as “Maalox Moments”) that no one else thinks of but us. I don’t think it’s on the radar of Joe Public that we struggle when it’s time to pack the old backpack (and, in my case, clean out the old lunch boxes from last year...also known as “I-Don’t-Know-What-Kind-Of-Food-That-Used-To-Be-But-It-Explains-That Smell-We’ve-Had-All-Summer” Day), pick up the new school supplies, and get ready for yet another year.
Every year, it seems like it will get easier. And in some ways it does. This year, I actually had the presence of mind to take pictures of the kids on the first day of school. The last time I did that was right after my husband died (when I was trying to behave like a “normal” mom) and I took a picture of my daughter on her way to first grade. I noticed, as I looked at the pictures a couple of years later, that her shoes were on the wrong feet. That I had put her shoes on the wrong feet.
Definitely a “Widda Moment.”
I’ve thought for years that only I had issues with back-to-school time. But now I’m looking at Facebook and theWiddahood.com and noticing that almost everyone is dreading it, too. Kids are starting high school and parents are noticing that they’re weeping over this milestone alone. Forms are being filled out with either the word “deceased” written down or a very white blank where their spouse’s name belongs. Parents are struggling to figure out how in the hell one parent can get all of the kids to the activities they want to do after school.
I don’t know about you, but every year I struggle with the decision of whether or not to mention that the kids’ dad is gone. For the first time this year, I didn’t pull the teachers aside and have that quiet little talk with them. My oldest daughter is to the point where I trust her judgment and comfort level with the subject and I just casually mentioned that if she feels like she would like to tell her teachers, she can. My son’s teacher “looped up” this year and she’s aware of the situation, so there’s a conversation I don’t have to have. And I’m sure I should have had “the talk” with my youngest daughter’s kindergarten teacher, but frankly...I’m burned out with telling people and getting the sympathetic nod, so I chose to blindside her on the “getting to know you” sheet she handed me to fill out:
“My daughter likes reading, coloring, and pretend play.
Oh! And her dad’s dead.”
I know, I know. I should be a better parent. But I’m tired. So there.
School really snuck up on me this year. We got out early in the spring, so that meant that we had to start up early this fall (even though it’s still summer). One day we were floating on the lazy river at the water park and the next I was packing smelly lunchboxes and loading everyone on the bus. I almost forgot to tell them not to wear their bathing suits and was this close to handing them all popsicles as they walked out the door.
I’m trying to ignore the fact that this is my oldest child’s last year in elementary school (otherwise I’d be flipping back and forth between feeling misty and feeling old) and I did pretty well with shipping my youngest off to kindergarten without getting too emotional. When we woke up that morning I said to her, “What am I going to do all day without you here to keep me company?”
She replied, in her wisest 5-year-old voice, “Well, you could go to the gym or to the grocery store or go pick up my new shoes....”
I felt better after she had given me that little “to-do” list.
I know that in a couple of weeks the shock of starting another school year will have worn off. I will be grateful to be back into a routine and be able to enjoy my silent house (yesterday I actually ate my WHOLE LUNCH in one sitting!!!). I may even treat myself to the pedicure that I’ve been trying to chase down all summer. I will appreciate the fact that my kids love school and can’t wait to go every morning.
But right now it’s still fresh. The passage of time. The reminder that we’re all getting older and enjoying moments that he’s missing. The horrible “single parent” feeling that only the start of the school year can bring out.
And the forms. Those damn forms.