Back-to-School

For me, this past week has been absolutely consumed by getting the kids ready to head back to school: standing in line at Staples, braving the crowds at the malls, and navigating my way through the grocery store in an attempt to stock up on lunch supplies. This is a big year for my kids—and for me and my husband. Our daughter is entering her final year of elementary school, and our son is starting 1st grade. I’ve been waiting for this day since the beginning of August—you may remember from the post “The Long, Lazy Days of Summer”—and now it has finally arrived.

The early morning was filled with the excitement of putting on never-before-worn clothing, double-checking that backpacks contained all of the shiny new school supplies, and impatiently waiting for the time when we would finally leave for the unknown adventure that is school—for a 1st grader, that is. In other words, it was just shy of total chaos.

As I was walking my kids up to their school, I was suddenly struck by two overwhelming emotions. For my son, I felt utter joy that he was finally going to attend a full day of public school. No more daycare, before-care, after-care, or any other kind of “care” that requires us to make a monthly payment. For the last ten consecutive years, we have been paying someone else to watch our children so that we could go to work. Not anymore! If you could have seen me waving good-bye to him for the last time, you would have seen a smile on my lips, and a happy dance in my eyes—I think I may have even skipped a little on the way back to my car.

Before experiencing this moment of joy, however, I had just felt quite the opposite. As I stared at the back of my daughter’s freshly curled head running toward her awaiting friends, I was overcome with a feeling of dread. She barely said good-bye to me. I didn’t even have time to tell her to have a good day, or to say that I loved her (not that I would have actually said it for fear of getting one of her angry stares—but that’s not the point). This is it, the last year before middle school, the last year before she becomes a true teenager with all of the angst, drama, and erratic emotions that comes with them. This is the last year that I will be able to identify every child in her class by name, and—for the most part—recognize the corresponding parent. In just ten short months, elementary school will come to an end, and no matter how much I wish I could slow it down, my daughter is rapidly growing up before my eyes.

I’ve been trying to think of what advice I’d like to give her as she heads back to school. If I remind her to make sure she studies for her tests, listens to her teacher, and turns in her homework on time, she will roll her eyes and tell me that she already knows to do that. As I write this, I am suddenly reminded of a post I recently read by Scary Mommy called “Too Pretty To Do Homework.” In the post, Scary Mommy writes about a t-shirt that was in the news because of the outrageous—and completely ridiculous—message it contained. The t-shirt read: “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” This made me think about some advice I once gave my daughter that is probably appropriate to repeat as she heads into Sixth Grade.

I told her a fact about boys and girls that I believe to be true: as she gets older, she will more than likely witness some girls—maybe even her friends—making themselves appear less intelligent just so that boys will like them. I also explained that she will more than likely encounter boys who will make fun of her for being smart or for working hard in school. When I first told her this, my daughter looked at me in complete disbelief—she couldn’t imagine why anyone would act stupid just so that a boy would like her. I think her disbelief stems from the fact that she likes being smart, she is competitive and would never willingly do poorly on a test, and she honestly—for now—doesn’t care what boys think. Just last year, she was presented with an award by the Board of Education in our town for achieving high success on a National test—she was the only girl, and she was immensely proud of herself.

So, my advice to her—if she ever finds herself not raising her hand even if she knows the answer just because some boy had called her a “nerd”being smart and doing well in school will take her wherever she wants to go in life. I hope she always remembers how she felt that day in the hallway of the high school—standing amongst boys older than herself—when she was recognized for working hard, and for her success.

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32 thoughts on “Back-to-School

    • That’s a good question. In an ideal world, it would go straight into savings. Unfortunately, I think it’ll be used to pay bill. But that is life, right?

  1. Feels good to no longer pay for preschool/daycare, doesn’t it? My youngest started (full day) public school kindergarten yesterday, so we’re finally not paying for daycare or education either. And we’re putting boatloads of money into our savings now. (Not!)

    Your daughter sounds like a bright and confident girl, and I hope she takes your words to heart and always strives to do well in school! Great advice for her, as always.

    • It is quite a liberating feeling not to have to think about childcare. Of course, it would be even better if kids weren’t so much money even in public school. What is the deal with book sox? Why do we have to pay $4 to cover a book when a paper bag worked just fine when I was a kid. It makes me mad each year, but I always forget to complain.

    • Thank you! Who knows, if we all start giving the same message, maybe our children will spend more time doing well in school, looking toward their futures, than worrying about being popular. Thank for stopping by, and for taking the time to leave a comment.

    • Absolutely! Although, I guess it goes both ways, right? I’ll have to teach my son something similar, but I think it may be more challenging to get him to understand that being a nerd is the way to go. He’s only 6, so I’m giving myself some time to figure things out. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Being a parent can be such a challenge at times, all I try to do is to learn from the way I was raised—along with my experiences—to help prepare her for the world. The scary part is, I won’t know if it worked until 10-15 years from now!

      Thanks so much for reading my blog, and for leaving a comment!

    • Thank you—I try! For me, I get two rewards from writing. 1) I am capturing my thoughts, feelings, opinions, and advice for my daughter (children) 2) I love the satisfaction of publishing what I’ve written, after laboriously editing every word. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What great advice! I will have to remember it if I ever have a daughter. And, more importantly, it reminds me that I should teach my son the same thing: value girls who are intelligent and never put them down.

  3. I am so glad I found your blog this morning. This was full of great advice from an interesting perspective. I am a middle school teacher, and I think you are really setting your daughter up for success. I LOVE to hear about great parents like you. Off to check out more of your great blog, and thanks for stopping by mine this morning!

  4. Visiting from Mama Kat! My daughter just started 8th grade (so fast!) and she raises her hand no matter what. She kind of likes being a nerd! She’s a way popular nerd but she’s so smart why hide that fact? 🙂 I’m sure you’re raising your daughter to be confident like that as well! Good luck…man my “baby” started middle school this year. SO FAST!

  5. Amen! I was a total nerd and while I was constantly teased, I was so competitive, I never stopped answering questions or doing well on tests. The result was I went to an amazing university and am now providing for my family.

  6. We are still in the “early elementary” years … but before I know it, I’ll be watching my babies head off to middle school. Hope God prepares my heart before that first day of school! I’m sure He’ll make sure we’re all ready.

    Thanks for stopping by Snapshots!

  7. My oldest daughter will be turning 21 in a couple of months. She is in Russia and will be for her birthday. I am in the US. Leaving elementary doesn’t sound quite so huge now, does it? (That wasn’t said in a snarky voice. Please don’t read it that way.)

    Anyway, that daughter has always been smart. I remember having that conversation with her, “Don’t pretend to be dumb for anyone.” I doubt she needed it. She’s still quite the know-it-all. She has never pretended for a boy. And I don’t expect she ever will. I just wanted to give you hope. If your daughter thinks it’s a stupid idea now, she probably will in the future, too.

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