Last week was a rocky one in my house. While we’ve all been blessed with some book smarts, we have decidedly and repeatedly received poor grades in “transitioning,” “taking risks,” and “talking to new people.” Our new school “fresh start” wasn’t the sharpened colored pencils and new blue jeans that Sarah mentioned last week. It was three kids in three different schools. It was kids on different fields in different towns at the same time. It was a blown starter in a car that managed to take all week and into the weekend to fix. It was standing in the rain down the street and waiting for the big yellow bus to turn the corner and pick up or drop off a child for a cumulative hour and a half every day.
I saw a lot of you feel it too, this “fresh start,” this shock to system. One day you were laying on the beach (having finally received a perfect A+ on the sunscreen, beach towel, snack, goggles, beach toy management) and suddenly you were hit with this tidal wave of a million new things starting at the same time, washing away your People Magazine and iced coffee and forcing you indoors and in your car and going to bed early. I saw your weary faces last week. I saw how week one of the “fresh start” was going. You weren’t ready. I saw you cut me off in traffic, and that you missed the bus, and the harsh words you used to your kid when you were stressed out from arriving 10 minutes late to soccer practice.
We know we will all eventually find our groove. We find a new routine, become acclimated with the new rules, find friends to sit with on the bus, and develop carpools. We lower some expectations and raise some. Put some projects away to make space for others to grow. Take a deep breath and maybe realize that it’s not so bad, it’s just new. An adjustment. A fresh start.
Us moms, we’ve done this before. We’ve been through new school years donning new sneakers and haircuts and minds full of excitement and fears. We’ve moved away from our parents. We’ve lived in dorms, apartments and houses. We’ve gotten new jobs and slept through the night without our blankies. We’ve taken financial risks in houses, businesses, vacations and shoes; welcomed babies, husbands and hundreds, if not thousands, of friends into our lives. We’ve lost people and things suddenly or gradually. We’ve eaten new foods without bribery. We’ve adjusted, exercised flexibility and learned instability is a part of life. We’ve (for the most part) developed coping skills and hopefully the peace of knowing, the worst days will eventually give way to another fresh start – another clean slate to build upon with more experience under our belts. At the very least we’ve taught ourselves to find a moment of solace in a glass of wine, a cup of coffee with a friend, watching a cheesy 80s movie, window shopping, going for a run, or going to bed early.
But my babies, they are just babies. It took them many attempts to learn to tie their shoes or drink from a cup; I can’t expect them to be experts at transitions on their second or even their fifth attempt at entering a new classroom. They hardly know themselves, how can I expect them to easily navigate a new relationship, be it with a peer, a teacher, a bus driver or an entire playground of children? Or to know the socially appropriate time to interrupt a lesson to say they need to use the bathroom, or how to position themselves between the ball and the goal when defending a fast break. Even carrying an across the shoulder begged for purple leopard print messenger bag after using a backpack for the past year has proven to have a learning curve.
My kids can hardly carry a full dish to the dinner table; I can’t expect them to be experts at balancing new slates. I have to remind myself to be patient and understanding and not to muddy up their clean slates with what might be dripping off of my filthy one.
I can try to model behavior in how I deal with “fresh starts.” I can give my kids tools and reminders and hope they know how to use them. I can support them and reassure them and give them a little push forward some times, and pull them back onto my lap for a fully protective not letting go hug other times. I can make chocolate milkshakes for an after school snack and let them scream at me for no real reason other than the need to scream at someone. I can make sure they get in bed early, and let them stay up late to play one more game of Trouble. But then I have to believe in them that they’ll learn to navigate into their own groove and be patient if they need more than a few tries.
Friday evening, at the end of our trying week one of school, a sudden thunderstorm hit. Instead of going upstairs to get ready for bed, we went outside to play in the rain. I could see the raindrops washing their slates clean. The electricity in the air was freshening them up. They smiled and squealed and didn’t care if they could not remember which day they had library or the tricky name of the new teacher’s assistant. Sometimes, that tidal wave comes and makes the fresh start, but I’m hoping week one was washed off by a passing thunderstorm and in week two the purple leopard print messenger bag carries only sharpened colored pencils and a clean slate.