It’s back to school week! I’ve often enjoyed reminiscing about getting new “school shoes”, a special outfit or two, all the fun supplies, the bag packed and ready to go. To this day, I continue to indulge in a little back to school shopping, despite graduating many moons ago, and Claire certainly not there yet. I still get the feeling that I can run faster in a snazzy new pair of sneakers, don’t you?
Yet there’s a dark side to this bright coin for me, something that I began to dread while in elementary school, and I continue to deal with to this day- the damn cold sore. Yup, that’s right- good ol’ Herpes labialis. I contracted the virus at a very young age, and without fail- every flipping first day of school from Kindergarten through Senior year I had one. Preseason every year at UConn? Yup. Bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding in early September? Yup. I think I can feel the tingling sensation as I write this, better go get the Abreva.
My Mom always said it was because I never talked about stuff that bothered me, so my stress would come out through my body. “What does she know?” I would scoff to myself, but this is the same lady who rubbed my wart-covered fingers on a potato and the warts went away forever, so maybe she did know a thing or two. The truth is, I look at everyone’s pictures on FB of all the kids smiling for the first day, and I can actually feel the butterflies in my stomach begin fluttering. I wonder how many of those children are smiling, but feeling truly frightened inside. I wonder how many of those sweet little people even know how to verbalize the anxiety they might be feeling? Even if they’re happy to be taking this step forward, it gets intense, and it’s helpful if you tell them that it’s ok to be nervous. It’s helpful to ask them what they’re feeling, it’s helpful to tell them what you’ll be having for dinner when they get home, because that might be the light at the end of their tunnel. Children are resilient, and they learn pretty quickly how to put on a brave face- it’s the dialogue that we, as parents, begin and continue- that’s the part that’s going to teach them how to cope internally.
I can already feel the buzz in the children in my care- the older ones make it seem like it’s old hat, yet it’s the little ones, especially those entering Kindergarten, where you can hear it in their voices. They will gladly share with you what they plan on wearing, what their new backpack looks like, and maybe some additional information they gleaned from orientation. By now, they have met their teacher at a social of some sort, and they might even know someone in their class. They continue to repeat whatever pieces of information they have, to anyone who’ll listen, and in that recital they will be able to better visualize what this new transaction will look like. Again, it’s that kind of dialogue that helps them process, so ask lots of open ended questions. And again, talk about the whole day, not just school- that way they know that no matter how intense the day may be for them, they’re going to go home and have mac-n-cheese for dinner.
So I didn’t mean to get all deep and serious in today’s post- I believe parents are the experts on their own children, and we know our children better than anyone. Sometimes it’s helpful for us to be reminded that no matter how trivial it may seem, conversations with our children are so important when it comes to their development and how they learn to cope. My Mom always wanted to talk, and I have memories of me literally running from her to avoid a conversation I didn’t want to deal with. But in retrospect, I am thankful she tried so hard. Maybe if I’d taken her advice, my brave face wouldn’t have had such a visible blemish.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy school year!