Thursday, August 30, 2001

Counting down

Six days and counting to the start of school. Can I get a "Whoo-hoo!"

My kids are not as excited about this as I am, which is a good sign, really: There was a time when my daughter would much rather be in school, which was so much like the orphanage she'd spent her first 4.5 years in and therefore so familiar, than have to be home with this unfamiliar thing called a family. I'm delighted that she now sees home as the place to be, and school as the scary, less-than-comfy spot. Delighted. But she still has to go.

She shared her back-to-school worries with me last night, and they are three: 1) she will have to write reports; 2) we will have to pick her up after chorus; and 3) when she gets to middle school, she will have to change her clothes in front of other people at gym, and in only five minutes.

If she were an 11-year-old among 11-year-olds, she would have reason to worry about the horrors of being naked among your middle-school peers; however, she's an 11-year-old among 9-year-olds and, as a fourth-grader, has two elementary years to go before she has to obsess about that. I told her to hold her worrying for a while. Worrying ineffectually about a future that can't be controlled is, of course, a mother's job.

I don't know if she believed me when I said that the chorus director would let us know what time to pick her up and that we would really, truly be there -- just like we're there at the end of school and just like we were there last year when she got out of her after-school remedial sessions -- but she at least appeared to be reassured. Now, if she'd worried about singing off-key or learning the music or performing in front of an audience or getting from her classroom to the rehearsal room, I'd have had a little more trouble jumping quickly to assurance. But pick-ups are a piece of cake.

Worry #1 is not. Reports are a way legitimate concern. I'm worried that she will have to write reports, too, because it means I will have to help her write reports and, hoo-boy, that is not a pleasant thought at all. Helping her write simple paragraphs has added gray hairs to my head and holes to my stomach. She is no more ready to write reports than she is ready to pole vault in the Olympics. But at least with the pole vault, she could probably get off the ground a little faster.

Still, I put a good face on it and explained that she will have a language-arts aide this year, helping her a few hours a day, and that person will certainly have as part of her job helping with reports. (She will, won't she? Won't she?) And the teacher will help. And if necessary, we'll hire a tutor to help. I'll help. Papa will help. Everybody will help! Now, if only my daughter would help, by not being completely and utterly clueless. I know, I know, that observation is not helpful. I couldn't help it.

My son has shared only one school-starting anxiety, and that is: "I hope the teacher doesn't give homework on the first day." He says this exactly the way Buster Baxter says it on his first day of third grade on the "Arthur" cartoons on PBS. So I don't think he's really worrying; I think he's just rehearsing his lines. Besides, the only homework that's likely to come home that first day is homework for me, all those forms and cards to fill out with the exact same addressses and phone numbers and emergency contacts I gave them last year. Couldn't they have this stuff computerized by now?

Six days. Six days and counting. Let the games begin.

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