We’ve been back to school for two days, and we’re sort of drowning here. I mean, we’re not drowning drowning. Not like oh my gosh, we have a NEW BABY drowning. Just a little bit of back-to-school drowning. A little splashing around. A little gasping for breath. A little leg cramping and flailing and maybe-we-shouldn’t-have-gone-so-far-from-shoring. Minor drowning, you know? Like I need a lift back to the shore and a firm pat on the back and maybe a tiny bit of mouth-to-mouth from a hot lifeguard while I lie on the beach trying not to vomit.
I can tell you this for sure because I have my very own pool from which to draw accurate statistics: 3 out of 5 children are excited to be back at school this year.
Three out of five are eager.
Three out of five are happy.
Three out of five talk a mile a minute when they come home and set their alarms for EARLY because tomorrow can’t come too soon.
2 out of 5, though? Not so much.
Two out of five hate this.
Two out of five have been crying.
Two out of five are shaky and jittery and have an involuntary wrinkle between their eyebrows from feeling afraid.
And you’d think we’d be used to this.
You’d think we’d know it will pass.
But you’d be wrong.
Because even though we had 3 kids at 3 new schools last year, and 3 kids at 2 new schools the year before, and more kids at more new schools for infinity before that, this whole Stressed Out Children Attending New Schools thing just bites.
What do you do in that time before your children make friends? When they’re sure they’ll never make them? And they know they’ll wander the halls, lost and alone forever?
Which is how all of us feel when we’re lonely. Like there’s no escape and we’re surely doomed.
‘Cause I’ve tried saying All the Hopeful Things to my kids over the years – all the Rah! Rah! Cheerleader Stuff – and I’ve tried Doing Things, too, and I still haven’t hit on a single thing that works. I’m starting to think that Saying the Words and Doing the Things doesn’t help as much as Being There to Listen, and Waiting in Their Sadness With Them, and Asking What They Need From Me. Which just SUCKS, you know? Like there’s no magic wand out there, and like I can’t force happiness upon them.
So what am I missing, Internets? What’s the magic thing to say or DO?
Please write back soon.
I woke up late this morning. On my stomach. Face buried in pillow. Pillow with a tiny bit of adorable drool. Mine, though, so that was nice. And Greg asked if I was OK.
“I’m fine,” I said, and, “I’ll be up in a minute.” Which we both knew was a lie and came out more muffled like, “Uhb eye. Ah be uh-i-na mihna.” I went back to sleep for 15 because I knew – I KNEW – as soon as I got up I’d have to deal. Deal with the children and their feelings and my feelings and ALL THE FEELINGS.
I don’t like feelings. Except when I eat them because then they taste delicious like cinnamon toast and potato chips and chocolate chip cookies. But I’m trying not to eat my feelings right now, so instead they just taste like afraid and sad and helpless and overwhelmed.
I tried being the Cheerleader all day today as the texts rolled in from one of the Wrinkled Brow kids. “It’ll be OK eventually,” I wrote, and, “Give it some time.”
Look at me! FIXING things!
I pulled the I’m Older and Wiser Card next with, “I’ve been there, and even though you think I don’t understand what you’re going through, I do understand it. I do.“
I even donned the Authority Mantle: “You have to do this. You have to keep going until December. I don’t even want to consider anything else before you’ve really tried.”
BOOM! If that’s not encouragement, I don’t know what is!
But my kids, oddly, were less than enthusiastic at my fixing and my awesome parenting, and instead of snapping out of their fear and loneliness, they became more withdrawn and less interested in talking to me about how it was going.
It really bites when Being In Control isn’t compatible with We’re All on the Same Team. Just once I want those things to go together.
But today wasn’t that day, so I backed up and said, “I’m sorry; I’m trying to help, and I’m getting it wrong,” and, “I’m sad for you,” and, “I’m here for you,” and, “Let me know if there’s any way I can help.”
Instead of solving anything, I spent the evening french braiding hair and sitting in bed with my kid and talking about what’s for dinner this week.
I said, in the end, lots of “I don’t knows” and “I love yous” and “We’re in this togethers.”
So, for tonight, 3 out of 5 children are excited to be back at school. And 2 out of 5 aren’t. And I don’t know how tomorrow will go, but I suspect I’ll try to fix less and be present more. Unless one of you can find that damn wand.