“We had been talking about it for weeks. We went to the open house. My son liked the pre-school teachers. He was really excited to start school, and blended easily with the other children lined up at the door that first day. I sobbed all the way home.”
“Glad to finally have junior high behind us, I was glad for my daughter’s enthusiasm about starting high school. But as summer wound down, I found myself in a real funk. High school – the pressures of drugs, teen pregnancies and suicide rates, academics, social stresses, first jobs, driving classes. I think I was actually depressed.”
“Our son had worked extremely hard to get into college. He had plans for his future. He was mature and level headed. I was the one in a panic. What if he gets sick? Will someone see that he eats well? Thinking about it later, that wasn’t my issue at all. I was sending my Baby out into the world, and I wasn’t ready.”
What the heck is going on? From practically day one in the pregnancy, parents talk about schools. They might even move to be in a different school district. It’s such a huge part of life with kids, why would we have adverse reactions?
There are two possibilities we’ll discuss: grief and land mines.
There’s a phrase often heard, that being prepared for something, and being ready, are two different things. Sending a child off to school, no matter on what level, is a loss. Your former life with that child is gone, never to return. You forget the trials of the Terrible Twos and teenage hormone changes. You are, in a sense, losing your baby. And you are mourning that, while at the same time you chide yourself for feeling that way. After all, your child is alive and well, and you are extremely thankful for all the blessings. You are sad, and ashamed of it.
This is a real head vs heart situation. Recognize that you are dealing with feelings, and logic has no place there. Recognize that you are mourning, in every sense of the word. In other articles on the Bereavement page you’ll find help for that. For this particular type of grief, there are some specific suggestions.
Your best resource is your mother, or someone like a mother to you. She has been there and done that. She has the advantage of distance and time from the event, and can offer sound advice. You may hear for the first time some stories about your own venture into the big bad world. It can be a wonderful bonding experience for both of you.
The next time the parents are together, waiting for the kids to go in, be brave and mention that you had a hard time that first day. Yes, there’s always One who will scoff at that. But you’ll be appreciated by others – men and women - who also had difficulties. Talk to them, and let everyone share their experiences. Suggest going out for coffee. Voila! Instant support group. New friends. Good coming from bad. Good job.
Let the grief run its course, so you can move past it and start enjoying this phase of your child’s life. In NO time at all, your child will be stopping by to tell you s/he had a hard time on the THEIR child’s first day of school!
Also acknowledge that you are losing a certain level of control. Nobody likes that! Name it, claim it, deal with it, move on. It’s called growing up. It’s something you’ll do throughout your life.
Land mines may be a huge factor in your school year reaction.
Did you have trouble going off to school? Is there some trauma that occurred that coincides with a new school year? Was a particular school or grade an unpleasant place? Why? Think hard, and be very honest with yourself here.
And yes, you really need to deal with it now. Not just for yourself. You run the risk of making your child pay for your unpleasant memory. It’s not something you can do by yourself, either. Talking to Mom may help in this case. But if trauma was involved, you need to see someone with a bunch of letters behind their name. Trauma may include a death, physical attack, emotional upheaval, drastic change, bullying, addition of a sibling, accident, illness (yours or someone else’s), fear – the possibilities are myriad. Maybe you can’t even remember why that period in your life was so difficult. You need someone to help you figure it out. You need to do it this semester!
Getting rid of all the old baggage allows you to enjoy life to the fullest. And we all seek