Oh The Back To School Angst

I woke up with a small knot in my stomach and one thought going through my head over and over this morning: How much I hate being “new”.
This is so not the first time for us. I don’t know what it is with me and the husband, but we are like pathologically unable to stay in one place for more than four years and so my poor kids are now on their fourth different school district. (The two oldest also graduated up to new schools within the districts, so there was even more change for them). For Luke, the nine year old, it’s only the second school district, and his first time being the new kid. So far, he’s pretty chill about it. I wish I could say the same thing. I don’t know why I get so anxious – it’s not me who’s walking into a classroom of 30 strangers. It was me, once upon a time, in second grade. And I hated it. It was a tumultuous move for lots of reasons that I’m sure didn’t help me enter confidently, but boy did it take me a while to find my way. Still, I think that might be easier than being the new mom. Is it just me, or does it seem like all the popular girls grew up to be PTA moms? I swear, you’d think at 41 I’d be over this “fitting in” crap, but here I am, still stressing.

Turns out, I really didn’t need to stress about this morning. It was a very low key “orientation” for new families with fifth grade kids giving the tours and a couple of PTA moms answering questions and handing out packets of paperwork. It seems like a very nice school and everyone was very friendly. But that didn’t stop me from having an internal argument about whether Luke should hold my hand as we walked around the school.
What if the 5th graders think he looks like a baby? They’re still kids. I bet they hold their mom’s hands, especially when they’re nervous. I don’t know. I don’t think Drew (my older son) would have held my hand at this age. Okay, I’ll let go. Oh, Luke grabbed my hand again. For heaven’s sake, just let the child hold your hand. This is a lot to take in!

(Yes, I really do have that much of a running commentary in my head nearly all of the time. My mind is a noisy and chaotic place. Small wonder that I can’t remember people’s names or what I’m doing most of the time.)

At one point in the tour, when both 5th grade tour guides were talking at the same time, Luke said to me, “A lot of this is going over my head. I don’t think I’m going to remember it all.”

He does that sometimes, saying things that sound too grown up to come out of his mouth. He repeats things he’s heard us say. It could just be a kid thing, but I think it’s related to the way his language developed in the last six years since we adopted him from Vietnam at three and a half. It tricked us into thinking his English was a lot further along than it really was in the first few years. Often he gets the context or meaning wrong, but sometimes he hits the nail right on the head. Like today.

“It’s okay,” I assured him. “You’re going to get another chance to see the school on Thursday when you meet your teacher. And I’m sure your teacher will help you too.”

Today was so easy. But I still can’t shake that stressed out feeling. Leah has her middle school orientation (that parents also attend) on Thursday – at the same time as Luke’s official teacher meet/greet. Thank goodness the husband can jump in and help with this stuff. Seriously, what do single parents – or working parents with tight schedules – do? Then next week the real fun starts. I just realized the other day that two out of three kids are not getting on the bus at the stop a block from our house. Luke’s school is just close enough that he has to walk – but it’s not a short walk. (I could drive. I probably will drive on miserable weather days. But mostly I think we should walk. If for no other reason than it forces me to exercise a little!) And Drew has to meet his STEM school’s “shuttle” at his local high school’s campus which is a good twenty minutes’ drive from our house. Husband is going to do the morning drop off. But Drew needs to be picked up in the afternoons at the exact same time that Leah is getting out of middle school. Cue the panic attack – what if I don’t get home in time to meet her at the bus? Yes, the stop is only a block from our house and yes we live in a safe neighborhood. But I read the news. I know that creepy guys stalk bus stops looking for girls walking alone. Am I really doomed to spend the entire school year stressing every afternoon?

Probably not. (She says in her most optimistic voice.)

Leah wants to go out for badminton, which is an after school sport. So then I just have to stress about picking her up at the same time that Luke is getting out of school. BLARGH. No, I’m sure it will be fine. (Shoulders back, deep breath.) And maybe she’ll make a friend who gets off at her stop and they can walk together? Or maybe we’ll find a carpool for Drew so I don’t have to do the pick up every day? Surely there has to be a good solution out there. It’s just a matter of getting into a routine, working out the quirks. I know we will. It’s just the process I’m not looking forward to.

Last time we moved my oldest, Quinn, got on the wrong bus on the first day of school. Oh my word the horror I felt when she called me on her cell and said “mom, I’m going to the wrong school!” And then a few weeks later, I missed getting the two younger kids off the elementary school bus and they got sent back to school and I got the dreaded “you suck as a parent” phone call. Fun times. (Don’t worry, YOU don’t suck as a parent when you have to pick your kids up because you weren’t in the right place at the right time. It’s just me. Or maybe it’s just my raging insecurity. Regardless, I’m sure they aren’t thinking anything negative about YOU.) Is it too much to hope that this time I can handle the school transportation issue without traumatizing my kids – or me?

I swear, this is the very last time we move until all four kids are good and done with school. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, AMEN.


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