When the First Day of School Isn’t Instagram-Worthy

First Day

I remember my brother’s first day of Kindergarten well—we had been playing in the bushes the night before and he got stung by a wasp. On his face.

He’s allergic. Not Epi-pen allergic, just Elephant Man allergic. So his first day of school picture was less than ideal and he may have also made a few of his classmates cry. My mom took another photo of us a few days later and pasted it in the album, passed off as the original. I like to think she kind of invented the latergram with those photo albums.

I was talking to a friend about my middle child’s first day–she was running a fever and missed her first day, and then we had an awful night of waking and nightmares before her second day. When I dropped her off, her perky, 20-something teacher crouched down to her level and said cheerily, “Welcome, Alice! Are you excited for school today?” To which my daughter growled in her 4-year-old lisp, “I hate sool,” and stomped past.

My friend’s Kindergarten-age daughter cried when they dropped her off and had to be peeled away, even though it was the same place she had attended preschool and wasn’t new to the whole concept.

We both wanted do-overs.

My oldest has always had perfect first days of school, just like I did as a kid, running to me from the bus at the end of the day, breathless with all the amazing things they did and friends she met and how she can’t wait to go back tomorrow. My second child is a constant reminder that I can’t have the same expectations for her. She’s a different kid, she’s not a people-pleaser, and it takes her longer to warm up to new situations. She stubbornly exists in her own experience and is unaffected by my desire that she have fun and make friends.

Social media has turned every minute occasion into picture day, and I feel like parents really feel the pressure on simple days like the first day of school. Your child has to have the perfect outfit, perfect hair, the perfect attitude, the perfect experience. You need the tiny chalkboard and the toothy smile and the “It was great!” from your child to make that first day complete for you. But there is no perfect experience. We see around us what looks like lots of other perfect people having it, but perfection doesn’t exist, only our ideas of it do. Like my friend said after her daughter’s disappointing first day, “I just have to remember that it’s not about me. It’s about her and her experience.”

Kids aren’t aware of why we are so stressed out. They have no expectations. They aren’t aware of the pressure to make every moment Hallmark-worthy. Some things in life, even really important things, don’t go like we planned. Sometimes there’s no salvaging them, even when you’re the mom and that’s your job. But just as important as making things work is teaching our kids how to react when they don’t. Shrugging off the things that don’t matter is a life skill that must be learned, and can only be learned by watching someone you love smile when they would really rather cry. It’s something I struggle with often, but I hoping I’m teaching my kids to stress out over the right things.

Besides, you can always make a latergram.

 

Erin Burt is a mom of three girls and a freelance writer who lives and writes in Oklahoma City. She is a recovering control freak.  

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.
Erin Hayes Burt

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Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.


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