New Beginnings

A little girl standing outside her home with her mother carrying a bookbag and lunchbox.  She is eager and ready to go back to school, holding up to sign that says FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

I remember the anticipation of starting school again in the fall. There was excitement about seeing friends again and getting all those new school clothes as one inevitably had a summer growth spurt. There was a little nervousness about meeting a new teacher. There was some relief that the overly long summer vacation was over and a routine would again be established (this relief, however, was never shared with parents as we did the requisite amount of “return to school” groaning).  All of this was amplified if it was time to move on from one school to the next. That pride of being the “big kids on campus” became a nervousness of again of being the new kids unfamiliar with the new school culture.
Many of our younger children, however, are in full time day care programs and we tend to forget that, while our adult schedules don’t change, the kids are still going through the “new year” emotions. It may not sound that momentous, but moving next door to the older kids’ room with new teachers and surroundings is a big deal. Though the kids have probably interacted with all of the school staff, you still have new teachers that are specifically yours. The physical rooms will be different, as will the daily classroom routines. As our younger children get older, they begin to realize that you are not sitting in the parking lot all day waiting for them but you actually have a life, leading to new separation anxiety.  As younger siblings start school, older siblings will vacillate between being mother hens and resenting having to share their school.
The Jewish High Holy Day cycle always seemed more relevant to me than the January calendar start time. We go through a great deal of our young lives with a fall year beginning. There is a brief time after college when suddenly that changes. My older son jokingly called home the first June after starting work the prior fall wanting to know when summer vacation began as it was mid-June and nothing at work was changing. Then comes parenthood and again one is suddenly thrown back into the fall beginning . Taking some time in August to take stock of scheduling, priorities, what you love and what you might want to cut out of schedules etc. seems in perfect alignment with approaching the Days of Awe and stepping back to examine our lives. Having the discussions about what one can reasonably fit into a manageable routine will help. Be up front with older kids that they have to prioritize activities and figure out that there are many wonderful classes, sports, instruments, etc, that can enrich their lives, but one can’t do it all.
Eventually, there is that transition to kids starting their new school year away from you as they head off to colleges. From those first tears (yours and theirs), starting pre-school to each fall following… there will be challenges and joys along the way but there is always something magical about heading out the door for that first day of school.  _
Judy Callahan is director of B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool and a member of PJTC.


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