Last Tuesday, September 3, was our first day back at school. I was over the moon to get some hours to myself. The boys were excited, but Lucas pretended to be sad about summertime coming to a close for this photo. The first morning was playful and optimistic.
Asher is in first grade this year and Lucas is in sixth! This is one of those milestone moments when you realize, wow, time has passed! Somehow Lucas’s new haircut makes him seem so much older.
See, Asher was calm, cool, and collected, right? Lucas acted somewhat blasé about the whole thing that first morning. Though I knew that he was very, very jazzed to get to spend his days with his friends and classmates again. Lucas is also excited about having a new teacher this year. He is rededicating himself to his studies, and to his first school sport, cross country running, which is terrific.
Unfortunately for Asher, the first day of school proved to be difficult and scary. He became clingy and and weepy when it was time to go into his classroom.
Shortly afterward the school held the annual welcome ceremony. All the classes and many parents attended. This turned out to be a stressful thing for Asher, who had never been to anything like it. He wept a bit until his new teacher brought him to sit by her at the end of the row. She rubbed his back and helped him to calm down during the speeches. The tradition is that the second graders give the first graders a flower as a welcome to the school. The teachers also give flowers to the senior class. It’s a lovely acknowledgement of their place in this beautiful Waldorf journey.
Then, each senior student takes the hand of a first grader and as a group they walk through the school. The older student shows the younger one around, explains where everything is (playgrounds, bathrooms, classrooms, library, farm, etc.). This lovely young lady was Asher’s buddy. He was trying so hard to keep it together, but he was overwhelmed and sad.
He spent a fair amount of time that evening worrying about the next day. There were lots of tears and fear.
Day 2 for Asher started very rocky, but got better. When Ian and I picked him up after school, Asher was in good spirits and said, “It was better than I thought it would be.” Then he showed us his first form drawing and gave Daddy a drawing lesson. He said he met the Spanish teacher and learned some German words for colors. He was in good spirits, and enjoyed spending some special time with Dad in the afternoon.
By evening it was a different story, however. I was forced to admit that tiredness got the better of him and he … well, lost his composure. Again with the tears, the wracking sobs, and “Mama, I just don’t think I can make it through first grade!”
So, with plenty of cuddles and reassuring words, I lay beside him in the dark, and taught him that no matter how bad or scared he may feel, five deep, long breaths would ALWAYS make him feel better. I held his sad, shaking body and remembered that there was a time, only six years ago, when our positions were reversed. When his soft, trusting, tiny, breathing presence was the thing that kept me going when I was very sick, depressed, and terrified.
As exhausting as this mothering job is, as ceaseless and hard and infuriating as it can be sometimes, I am still amazed at the privilege I possess: to see this little being unfold and encounter the world. To see him experience his challenges and stand up and face them, to ride them out until they cease being challenges and transform into achievements. It is an honor of the highest kind.
Asher is teaching me anew about Michaelmas this year, in a way I didn’t anticipate. I am the squire who is tasked with helping the little knight onto the field.
The school days that followed have been progressively better as he became more used to his new school routine, the new expectations, new children in his class, a new teacher, desks, lessons, etc. He lamented to me several times, “Mama, it’s just all so new!” It’s true. There is so much to learn. We have talked a lot about bravery—that one can only be brave if one is also afraid. And that courage lives in us, even when we feel small and scared.
By Friday, “It was the best day yet!”
And now we’re halfway through the second week. No more tears. Asher’s teacher and his friends all report that he’s now fine. Yesterday he stayed for aftercare and even that went well. Although he was worried about it beforehand, after school he said, “It was fun.” And this morning, “Mama, you don’t have to worry about me and nap. I mean, I’m fine with being picked up and fine with staying for nap.”
So, with some patience, talking about our feelings, extra cuddles and songs, and some quiet routine-building, we seem to have made it over this big scary adjustment. I am so proud of him!
Lucas, suffice it to say, has dived into school. He’s happy, connected, and working hard. Homework every night, which is new, and running practice twice a week after school. He has a lot more on his plate this year, but he’s approaching it with joy.