While going back to school is probably routine for most parents of 9-year-olds, I couldn’t be more excited or nervous about DJ starting school. Every fall for the last ten or so years, I’ve dreamed about my child’s first day and all of the back-to-school preparations. As usual in the world of parenting–adoptive or not–things aren’t going exactly how I had envisioned them once upon a time.
First, DJ will be starting 4th grade, not pre-school or kindergarten. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of me is jealous of all those moms sending their kids off to their “real” first day of school. One of the hardest parts about being an adoptive parent of an older child is that you’ve already missed so many important “firsts” in your child’s life. Nonetheless, I’m fairly confident that I’ll be just as proud as any parent when the bus pulls up on Thursday morning.
Second, school shopping with a 9-year-old boy was not the warm-and-fuzzy experience that I was expecting. Go figure, huh? Turns out that DJ would rather be checking out the Legos in the Toys Department (like most other 9-year-old boys) than helping me pick out new clothes. In fact, I had to promise him ice cream in order to get him to try on exactly five pairs of pants, none of which fit him, of course.
Fortunately, DJ brought a lot of clothes with him and has two aunts who have been very generous in sharing clothes outgrown by my nephews so our failure to buy new clothes really isn’t a problem. At least not for DJ. I, on the other hand, am a different story.
While I pride myself on being a fairly non-materialistic person, I was actually sad that DJ didn’t want a bunch of new clothes for school. I think most of my angst, however, was more about growing up in a large family where money was always pretty stressful than conspicuous consumption. Now as an adult who is financially stable, I struggle with the desire to want to give my child more than what I had and yet raise them to be a responsible consumer. Or put less graciously, I don’t want a child who is spoiled rotten.
Nonetheless, I managed to cover my disappointment and resigned myself to just buying a couple of shirts, including a retro Star Wars t-shirt that I’m secretly hoping he chooses to wear on the first day of school. Okay, I also splurged on a $30 Pittsburgh Steelers hoodie even though he absolutely didn’t need it. What can I say?
Then we moved on to the highly-anticipated (at least for me) school supply portion of the shopping trip. Thankfully, DJ was much more willing to shop for pencils and folders than shirts and pants. His predilection for being indecisive, however, meant that we spent an inordinate amount of time debating mechanical pencils vs. #2 pencils, Clone Wars folders vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and on and on. I wouldn’t have minded, but the poor kid agonized over every purchase. He didn’t say it out loud, but I could tell that he was worried about having the “right” kind of everything for his new school and the possibility of appearing “baby-ish.”
Finally, I never expected to be so emotional about DJ starting school. I teared up just talking to his school principal on the phone out of sheer joy! I also feel an overwhelming sense of relief that he’ll (hopefully!) make friends–something that he’s refused to even try to do all summer–and won’t have to rely on me as his primary playmate.
At the same time though, I’m a little worried that I’ll be really lonely once he’s gone. After waiting so long for a child, I’m reluctant to give him up, even if it is for school. I keep telling myself though that it will be great to get back to more of a pre-kid routine, including my freelance editing work and spending hours in coffee shops as well as the really mundane like uninterrupted time in the bathroom.
So that’s where we stand with T-minus 36 hours before DJ’s first day of school in Pittsburgh. Hopefully I’ll have a post up in a couple of days with how the first day actually went! In the meantime, feel free to write in the comments about how you imagined your child’s first day of school and whether or not it actually turned out that way.