It made a real impression on me when my first child was born, just how oblivious I’d been to the innumerable exhortations about new parenthood we’re regularly lambasted with from all sides and sources our entire lives. I’d always thought I understood exactly how hard it was on new parents just by hearing and witnessing family and friends go through this rite of passage over the years, not to mention the additional perspectives, as far-fetched as they may have been, provided by the occasional sitcom or sappy movie. That’s just the way it is, and that is why I’m still stumped as to how this message could have been so catastrophically lost on me. It wasn’t until I found myself trying to sit up, head bobbing, a baby at my poor breast in the dead of night for the fifth damn time that reality finally called my bluff. Suddenly, I was in the thick of it and I fully understood what everyone had been trying to tell me. Now that I actually felt it, I understood it, and this actually ended up being one of my very first parenting lessons.
I learned in those dreary, blurry first days of new mommyhood that, yes, while being a parent may now give you access to all that emotion and clarity that you’d only ever had the privilege of tuning out before, it could never be- under any circumstances- a substitution for experiencing the real thing with your own little. As empathetic as you may be and as much as you can logically understand what a parent is going through, it will always still be, far and away, completely foreign to you once you’re going through it yourself. These were some of the thoughts furiously running through my mind as I drove up to the elementary school last week to drop my little man off for his first day of pre-school.
All summer long I had found my thoughts stubbornly turning to that date on the calendar- the first day of school. I was ambivalent, I was nervous, I was excited, I was absolutely everything. Now here’s where that first lesson came in handy because I refused to be blindsided again, dammit. My newfound appreciation for firsthand experience allowed me to walk into this scenario with the full knowledge and understanding that there was to be no script for this moment; the way someone else felt about it and conveyed it wasn’t necessarily going to be reproduced for me that day. My husband and I followed every drop-off instruction to a tee, gave our boy one last look over, and then we all took the walk to the school’s doors.
Standing next to all the other moms and dads around me, I kept marveling at this transition, at just how momentous it actually was. For the first time, I wouldn’t be a part of every single minute of my son’s day. When he walked in, my position would be to stay behind. To let him go on alone. What a foreign concept to me. As a dedicated stay-at-home mom, I’d been responsible for his well-being and safekeeping at all times from the moment he was just a tiny little body swaddled next to me in the dark of night four years ago until now. For the first time since I first laid eyes on him, it wouldn’t be up to me how he spent the next few hours, how he was feeling, or what he wanted. He would have to begin the incremental process of speaking up for, and learning to look after, himself. This was a big step for him, one that demanded a lot of confidence and trust on his part. Though I knew what he was capable of, he didn’t seem too convinced of his own abilities those first few mornings.
The very same thing was happening for us parents too, however. This situation was demanding a tremendous amount of trust from us as well and I’m sure more than a few of us were standing there with doubts on our own minds. We would have to reconcile this new step in our children’s lives with the fact that the very same incremental process was being asked of us, the difference being, we are expected to just take it in stride. I guess entrusting someone else with your child’s care is supposed to be easy? This was what the first day of school truly asks of you. People tell you that you should be proud, that he’ll have fun, and that it’s all okay. Others still, tell you that you have to let go eventually. While all of these might technically be correct, they were still overseeing something very important, they were negating natural emotions as if they don’t even matter. But they do matter.
Every adjustment in life requires a period of transition, a path to acceptance, and time. Everyone needs time. So, with this in mind, I chose a better way to make peace with this change. I chose to feel community with the other moms for whom this was their first too. We may all be decades into our own list of firsts in life, sure, but this was a first for us all nonetheless, and it was just as momentous as all of the other firsts we’d experienced in our lives. I decided that my role in this milestone shouldn’t be discounted, but embraced, understood, and accepted. So now here we are, with his first week of school completed and his first piece of artwork hanging like a trophy on our wall at home, a little handprint next to a poem, but more importantly a craft we didn’t make together- a present for my husband and I. We’d all made it through our first week of pre-school together.
Now that we’re past the hump of back to school blues, it is on to new territory in our home. This new terrain of having a school-age child has come with new routines, new habits, and many adjustments for us all, not the least of which is getting out of the house on time each and every single morning during the school week. As my personality dictates that I constantly be in pursuit of efficiency, I immediately commenced my search in that endeavor. I began compiling a few tips, tricks, and items to help us tackle the morning routine and get through the day. In so doing, and being the sentimental organizational junkie that I am, I was immediately drawn to a few ideas right off the bat. They all brightened my mood this past week just as much as they eased my load.
I absolutely adore these little lunchbox notes I found over at papercrave.com. Now, granted I am a sucker for all sorts of paper and stationery, there was just something about these little guys in particular that stole my heart on sight. Something this adorable being specifically geared towards something other than my Project Life scrapbooking or greeting card stash? Sold! These little gems harken back to the good ‘ol days of receiving actual real mail from people in your real mailbox. I, for one, can still remember that feeling of excitement at getting a letter from my pen pal, or reading about someone’s travels on a beautiful little postcard.
It’s a feeling that is hard to replicate these days as email tends to fail at mustering the same thrill. It was in this spirit that I tucked these into my boy’s lunchbox a few days this week. While my little man might still be too young to read the sweet message, he is actually the perfect age to appreciate an unexpected colorful surprise from mom during snack-time. Provided as a free printable, they are available to all of us Mama Bears. I know I will be stocking up on these for the days to come as well as scavenging the internet for holiday themed options for the wonderful seasons ahead.
Being back in a school environment conjures up all sorts of old memories you’ve probably forgotten all about. The familiar little songs you thought you’d never hear again, the admonitions like “Stop, Drop and Roll,” that were once drilled into your head, the classroom birthday parties you used to enjoy so much, and the labeling. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right, the labeling. In the same vein as “criss-cross apple sauce,” not everything is the way it used to be, requiring some minor updates on your part. These days, a label with your child’s name on it is required on all of their belongings. At least around our neck of the woods it is. And I mean everything. As in, even on the spare pair of socks you’re asked to keep in their cubby. Therein lies the question.
How, oh how, to go about this task without straight-up defiling the duds you so lovingly bought, as visions of well-dressed children danced in your head? Frankly folks, if my choices were to lay sadly between hideously drab solutions of the plastic variety and the indiscriminate nature of those big black permanent markers- I think I’d rather take the lost item. That’s why I think Brenna Berger over at Paper & Ink has the right idea. Sure, you’re going to need a couple of supplies and a little elbow grease to make these whimsical fabric labels, but you’ll be rewarded with these absolutely precious name tags in return. I find something beautiful in their quaint simplicity. As an added bonus, when the inevitable hand-me-down time arrives, you will be blissfully free of any unsightly permanent reminders of these labeling days.
I knew, with the advent of pen drives in college, that although CDs had just become near obsolete, I might one day be able to breathe new life into all those plastic discs stacked neatly in that mini bundt pan. So imagine my elation when I stumbled across this time-saver right here on I Heart Organizing while on my virtual travels recently. As a Mama Bear trying to implement Montessori principles wherever I can in my child’s life, I relish any opportunity to allow him to flex his independence muscles. This is one such opportunity. Now, he can put together his own outfits for the week as I’m working on putting away my own mountain of clothes. Check out the updated version in the link above that utilizes cereal box cutouts instead of CDs for yet another take on this fantastic idea!