Back to School, Part 1


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.

Warning: blatant self promotion

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.


7 responses »

  1. I considered every year the “first day of school” pretty much because Paul started preschool at 4. Those days I remember well. For two years of preschool, I took him to school each day. The first day we were painfully early! (And so waited about 1/2 hour in the car; that certainly was unexpected!) Kindergarten was really the big step because of the bus transportation in the mornings. I never expected Paul to miss me; he was so confident when we walked to the bus stop. Dad, of course took the day off and we began a ritual of taking a Back To School picture either by the mailbox or on the front porch. Little rituals like this are sweet and helpful, they also provide a photographic record of height. He liked walking to the bus stop with both of us. In preschool, Paul usually had so much fun there I had to drag him out at the end of the session. Not so with kindergarten. By that age he was bubbling with stuff to tell me. He couldn’t wait to run out of school and find the car with his name on it! First grade was of course more serious (I use that term loosely) because he had real Homework.
    I treasure something that he made on the first day of kindergarten, though. It was a small, rounded pebble just the size to nestle in the palm of my hand. He painted a bright yellow smiley face on it and gave it to me when he came home. It had a little slip of paper with a poem on (it which has since been lost) that said something to the effect of, “Mom, sometimes I’ll miss you and I know you’ll miss me; so when you do just hold this in your hand and think about me learning and growing in school and I’ll be home soon.”
    Still makes me tear up.
    And, oh yeah, I did take a picture of him at the front door this year. He’s a Senior, now. In College. Hee!

      • That’s okay, Margaret. I am such a n00b on what formats are private and what’s not. I’ll remember to tighten it up for the next comment. The point I was somewhat trying to make was that they change so fast – and then revert to what they did last week or last year. I think it is important to capture the snapshots of their lives whenever we can. I hope it is going along well!

        On Wed, Sep 5, 2012 at 9:59 PM, MargaretAdopts

  2. I finally put Theo is part-time daycare. He made it though two, half-days, got sick and hasn’t been back. He’ll be ready to go on Friday again but we’ve now spent so much time together, I’m starting to feel like I don’t want him to go anymore! I can’t even imagine full-time school. *sigh* *hearts*

    • Harriet, I hope the transition back into daycare goes as well as possible! I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of work to keep me busy so after the first couple of days time seemed to fly between walking DJ to the bus stop and meeting him after school. I’m still surprised though by the rush of emotions that I feel when he gets off the bus though…like I haven’t seen him for days.

  3. Margaret- it’s been great reading your story. I remember when my brother was little he really struggled with what supplies to get- he definitely worried about looking cool. He also got really hung up on what kind of shoes he should wear. My daughter is only 4 months old and school seems so far away but I wonder how she’ll be. Will she be ready and excited or nervous and cry? We’ll see. Thanks for sharing this.

    • You’re so welcome. It’s especially hard w/ DJ b/c sometimes I don’t think he has a great sense of what’s “cool” for his age, which I kind-of like, but I also don’t want him to be made fun of. Of course, that begs the question, whose ego am I really worried about–mine or his. It all gets so complicated, and then I have to remind myself that we’re talking about a lunchbox 🙂

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