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Posted on Sun. Sep. 18, 2011 - 12:01 am EDT


Life ... without bumper pads: Anxiety about first day of school is Mom's little secret


Editor’s note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.

I have to admit, my son’s first day of first grade wasn’t an easy one for me. I put on a brave face as my husband I dropped him off, but when our first-born turned around to give me one final wave, I felt the tears start to well up.

“Bye mom!” he called out with a toothless grin.

I resisted the urge to call out an affirmation (“You’re a star!”) to him in front of his classmates. Instead, I smiled, waved and watched him disappear into the building.

“He’ll be fine,” my husband offered me sympathetically.

I looked at him and nodded. I knew if I spoke, the tears would spill. Instead, I made myself very busy gazing out the window as we pulled away from the school. A deep ache had taken up residence in my chest.

When we arrived back home, my husband left for work, and my younger children — both seemingly unaware of their big brother’s extended absence — played happily until their grandmother came to get them for a play date. After they left, I looked around the house. It was suddenly far too quiet. I let out a deep sigh. It was going to be a long day.

I tried to be patient. I really tried not to watch the clock all day. And I really, really tried not to call the school. But at 11:30, I lost the battle. Before I could apply reason to what I was about to do, I picked up the phone and dialed the office.

“Hi, Mrs. Adams,” the secretary greeted me with a slight chuckle.

“Um, hello,” I replied, suddenly feeling foolish. “I was just, uh, checking to see …”

“He’s fine,” she interjected. “Are you freaking out?”

“No, not really…” I said meekly before giving in. “OK, yes. Yes I am.”

“He’s OK,” she said with another laugh. “Go enjoy your day!”

“Alright, thank you,” I replied sheepishly. I hung up the phone and looked at the clock: only 3.5 hours to go. I just needed to keep busy until then.

I answered emails, returned phone calls, got my calendar lined up, paid bills and gave the refrigerator a thorough cleaning. Finally, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I got in the car and made my way to the school.

I was surprised to find that I wasn’t the first parent there; apparently I wasn’t alone in my sentiments. We all smiled at each other with the shared joy of reuniting with our kids and then went back to the task of diligently watching the exit.

Finally, my son appeared. He sauntered calmly over to the car next to his teacher, and I jumped out abruptly to open his door. I had never been happier to see him.

“He had a good day,” his teacher told me as soon as they reached me.

I smiled with relief. I looked over at my son, who grinned and gave me a high five.

“It was cool mom,” he said nonchalantly. I raised my eyebrows, and his teacher laughed.

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” she said to my son as he climbed in the car.

“See ya!” he replied cheerfully.

I got in the front seat and looked back at him.

“Well, I think this calls for a treat,” I said, and received an enthusiastic nod in response.

Over bowls of candy-laden ice cream, I listened as he told me all about his day. There were ups and downs, and a few parts that made me cringe slightly as I pictured him trying to adjust to his new routine. But I couldn’t help but smile at the confidence he had in his own ability to navigate this new territory. When he was done, he looked at me earnestly.

“So, Mom, how was your day?”

I looked upwards as I recalled the anxiety-filled hours I had spent waiting for him. Then I looked back at him and smiled.

“It was good,” I told him.

And the rest, I decided, would be my little secret.

This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. To read other columns, go to and click the left-side link for Columns.

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